Chinese ambitions of “String of Pearls” is being gradually realized, as Beijing clinched a multi-billion-dollar deal to build a port and a strategic town in Myanmar. This is the third massive project in India’s backyard after the investments in Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
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China and Myanmar recently signed an agreement to build the deep sea port project in Kyaukpyu town after negotiations elongated for years due to financing and other critical matters.
India has been increasing apprehensive of Chinese “String of Pearls” which aims to surround India from the sides and give Beijing a strategic advantage at a time of conflict. China is also developing deepwater strategic Gwadar port in Pakistan and also acquired Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port. China has consistently rejected the String of Pearls theory of building a strategic network of ports to encircle India.
The Chinese consortium led by state-owned conglomerate Citic Group signed the framework agreement with the Kyaukpyu Special Economic Zone Management Committee on the development of the Kyaukpyu, deep-sea port, at a ceremony in the Myanmar capital of Nay Pyi Taw, according to Global Times report said.
Under the framework agreement, China will fund 70% of the investment for the project and Myanmar will contribute the remaining 30%. The initial phase of the project will include two berths with a total investment of USD 1.3 billion.
The signing of the framework agreement marks an important step for the port project, which has been stalled since 2015, and for the continued implementation of the China-proposed Belt and Road initiative (BRI), which has come under heightened scrutiny because of the cases such as the Kyaukpyu port project.
The Chinese consortium first won the bid to construct the port in December 2015 with an approximate investment of $7 billion but further progress was stalled due to the disagreement over the project’s funding.
The Kyaukpyu project is estimated to bring 100,000 jobs to the local community and will contribute as much as $15 billion in tax revenue to Myanmar. Once completed, the port will have an annual gross output of $3.2 billion, the report said.
India’s Counter to China’s String of Pearls
India has also been actively working to counter China’s String of Pearls by making their own String of Pearls around China. Indian PM Narendra Modi clinched an agreement to create a new base in Seychelles (for which India further needs to engage the opposition), negotiated military facility at Oman’s Duqm Port, developed expansive bases on the Andaman & Nicobar Islands, signed a deal with Iran on Chabahar Port, inked India-France pact on Djibouti, gained access to Madagascar, besides having pacts with Japan, Vietnam and Singapore to counter China’s String of Pearls.