India and China are aggressively engaged in building their economic and military presence across the globe. While defence experts in India have accused China of creating “string of pearls” around India, China, on the contrary, has been preparing to counter reverse Indian “string of pearls”, which aims to surround China on all the sides. EurAsian Times analyses Indian strategy to counter that of China.
- Djibouti Naval Base: The Epicenter of China’s International Navy Dream
- Chinese String of Pearls Surrounds India From Pakistan, Sri-Lanka and Now Myanmar
India has 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, 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.
With ‘bromance’ between Indian PM Modi and Japanese counterpart Abe, India and Japan commenced their first joint military exercise – Dharma Guardian in Mizoram– in the northeast of India. Both nations are extremely keen to collaborate with each other in economic and defence areas and Japan has already emerged as one of India’s most trusted allies.
The Indian armed forces have got access to three new strategic bases at Changi in Singapore, Duqm in Oman and Sabang in Indonesia. The most threatening of all the three ports is the Sabang port near the Malacca Strait. China’s extensive use of the Malacca Strait means its economic and energy security gets threatened with Indian military base at Sabang port in Indonesia.
As EurAsian Times reported earlier, the Strait of Malacca is considered as one of the most important shipping lanes in the world. The Strait of Malacca is the primary shipping lane between the Indian and the Pacific Ocean which links major powers like China, Japan, India, South Korea, Malaysia etc. Close to 100,00 vessels pass through it every year making it the busiest strait in the world.
China is working on alternative routes to transfer energy to solve this dilemma—through Myanmar, Pakistan, and the Isthmus of Kra in Thailand, but the route remains significant enough for Indian presence there to matter.
Access to Singapore Changi Naval Base near the South China Sea for refuelling of ships of the India navy and other logistical support is another significant pivot for New Delhi in the Southeast Asian.
India has also significantly enhanced defence ties with Vietnam and has recently held a five-day naval exercise in May. Reports suggest that India might sell surface-to-air missiles – Brahmos to Vietnam which even drew a response from the Chinese side – that Beijing will not sit idle to such developments in the South China Sea.
The Duqm port in Oman has vital strategic location as it is close to two Chinese hubs, Djibouti and Gwadar (Pakistan). With Indian presence in Oman and access to Djibouti, India is slowly and steadily countering China’s belligerence and global presence.
The deal with Seychelles on Assumption Islands where India is building a naval base nearly failed with Chinese interference, but it came through after Seychelles was offered a $100 million credit line and the first state visit for President Danny Faure to India. India is estimated to be investing $550 million into developing this base.
Iran’s Chabahar Port which India is developing is also significant not only because it bypasses Pakistan to trade with Afghanistan and checks China at Gwadar, but also because India has managed to get US waiver of sanctions on the Chabahar port.
India is also augmenting its relations with Mongolia which is nestled between two enormous neighbours, China and Russia. With a $1 billion loan, India is helping Mongolia build its first oil refinery which, when complete in 2022, will meet the nation’s fuel needs, end Mongolia’s dependence on Russian fuel, and boost the GDP. Obviously, India has her own interests in mind, when investing and developing ties with a landlocked Mongolia.