China’s Indian Ocean Region First Meeting – OpEd


Not a month has passed since at the 17th G20 Summit held in Bali, Indonesia on 15th November President Xi Jinping spoke under the title “Working Together to Meet the Challenges of Our Times and Build a Better Future”. He said that it is imperative that all countries advocate peace, development, and win-win cooperation. All countries should replace division with unity, confrontation with cooperation, and exclusion with inclusiveness. Relevant statements on early U-Turns:

  • Solidarity is strength, but division leads nowhere. Living in the same global village, we should stand with each other in the face of risks and challenges. “No one should engage in creating closed and exclusive clubs.” 
  • It is imperative that all countries advocate peace, development, and win-win cooperation. All countries should replace division with unity, confrontation with cooperation, and exclusion with inclusiveness.

China hosted the first meeting of the Indian Ocean Region Forum on Development Cooperation on November 21 but kept India out of it. The meeting was organised by China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA) and was held in a hybrid manner under the theme of “Shared Development: Theory and Practice from the Perspective of the “Blue Economy” in Kunming, Yunnan Province.Representatives of 19 countries, including Indonesia, Pakistan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Maldives, Nepal, Afghanistan, Iran, Oman, South Africa, Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania, Seychelles, Madagascar, Mauritius, Djibouti, Australia and representatives of 3 international organisations were present. India was reportedly not invited, according to informed sources. China during the meeting has proposed to establish a marine ‘Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Cooperation Mechanism’ between China and countries in the Indian Ocean region and said China is ready to provide necessary financial, material, and technical support to countries in need.China forgets that the Indian Ocean is the only Ocean in the world which is named after a country-India. 

China continue to encircled India through the earlier so called strategy of ‘String of Pearls’ by heavily investing in ports, infrastructure and defence exports to India’s immediate neighbours and in the process China made grounds for future bases in the garb of development. ‘Red Dragon’ has leap frogged over land and sea and in the process strangulated India’s environs of its strategic sphere of influence. To achieve this Pakistan has been an instrument to provide the initial springboard to extend China’s reach and sphere of influence in South Asia and beyond. Globalization is not only resulting in greater world economic integration and interdependence, but also in the rise of China’s new economic power and the fast growing economic influence in Asia, Central Asian Republics, Eurasia Africa and South America.

To pursue its objectives China is also using other platforms like the BRI (Belt and Road Initiative) ,SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization), AIIB (Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank).The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a gigantic project which will connect Gwadar’s deep-water seaport in Pakistan to Xinjiang in China.  This allows China to connect to the world by road and sea through the BRI utilizing Pakistan’s location to bypass the chokepoint of the Malacca Straits. Making the route of its energy supplies to Xinjiang from the Persian Gulf via Gwadar warm waters, this route will shorten the distance by thousands of miles and reduce the traveling time considerably. The route passes through Gilgit-Baltistan (POK) making it the shortest route for China to reach Gwadar port and posing a major concern for India. PLA has around 10,000 troops stationed in the Pak-Occupied Kashmir (POK) in the northern areas in the garb of technicians and labour.  

China’s strategy is to prevent India’s Influence 

China’s strategy is to prevent India’s rise as an economic competitor and counter India’s strong influence in the Indian Ocean region where India-backed organisations like the Indian Ocean Rim Association, (IORA), which has a membership of 23 countries have taken strong roots.China is a dialogue partner in the IORA formed in 1997. IORA became an observer to the UN General Assembly and the African Union in 2015.Besides the IORA, Prime Minister Modi has proposed “Security and Growth for All in the Region” (SAGAR) in 2015 for active cooperation among the littoral countries of the Indian Ocean region.

On the other hand, India has attached more importance to QUAD to contain and deter China.The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD), commonly known as the Quad, is a strategic security dialogue between Australia, India, Japan, and the United States. India does not want QUAD to only focus on military cooperation, but also economic and financial ones.  India fears China becoming the dominant force in Asia but also knows it cannot compete with China on its own, and thus it hopes to contain China together with the stronger convergence oflike-minded countries the result-QUAD. China and Russia both have shown concerns over the QUAD partnership.

China has established a full-fledged naval base in Djibouti, its first outside the country, Beijing has acquired the Hambantota port in Sri Lanka on a 99-year lease besides building the port at Pakistan’s Gwadar in the Arabian Sea opposite India’s western coast besides infrastructure investments in the Maldives.

China’s New Inroads into the IOR : Blue Economy 

The forum underlined China’s stepped up diplomacy in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). Earlier this year, during a visit to Sri Lanka, Foreign Minister Wang Yi proposed creating another forum “on the development of Indian Ocean island countries” to “build consensus and synergy, and promote common development”. He called on Sri Lanka to “play an important role” in the initiative.China also “proposed the establishment of a  Blue Economy think tank network for China and countries in the Indian Ocean region with the support of Yunnan.”

China is making new inroads into the Indian neighbourhood and the Indian Ocean nations through economic aid and infrastructural development.  Though, China emphasizes that its cooperation are purely economic in nature, but its growing influence could eventually lead to development of closer strategic collaboration as well, undermining India’s own regional influence.  Similarly, India’s Look East policy as well as Connect Central Asia policy also stands to be undermined by growing Chinese influence.  China has gradually enhanced its foothold in the Indian peninsula, gradually expanding its footprint in South East Asia and Central Asia there by strangulated India by its Silk Economic Belt. India need to be wary of China’s Economic designs which will be detrimental to India’s long term interests and should formulate policies for exports.So President Xi Jinping says something in world forums but in practice   does something else so  China’s Leaders need to “Practice What they Preach.”

Patial RC

Patial RC is a retired Infantry officer of the Indian Army and possesses unique experience of serving in active CI Ops across the country and in Sri Lanka. Patial RC is a regular writer on military and travel matters in military professional journals. The veteran is a keen mountaineer and a trekker.

One thought on “China’s Indian Ocean Region First Meeting – OpEd

  • November 28, 2022 at 6:39 am

    An excellent holistic analysis of China’s economic and strategic influence with reference to India & Blue waters of Indian Ocean. To counter; we need to influence the littoral states of Indian Ocean on the strength & assets of Democracy, combine military strength in the Indo Pacific region. Our economic influence with African continent littoral states of Indian Ocean needs special attention.


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