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The Sino-Indian Great Game

Great Game

News Analysis |

The two emerging economies of Asia: India and China are engaged in a struggle to dominate the Indian Ocean region by establishing stronger military and economic presence from Tanzania to Sri Lanka.   

China being the world’s second largest economy is building a network of its defense and commercial facilities under its “String of Pearls” strategy. In this quest, China had revealed its plans to establish its first overseas military base in Djibouti, Horns of Africa in 2016. Several Chinese state-owned companies have secured multiple projects including a port in Tanzania under China’s “Belt & Road” initiative.

India does not need to counter China Pakistan Economic Corridor Project as it is an inclusive project and welcomes other states to invest in the project. But India is pursuing its own strategic interests to exert more influence in Afghanistan.

India is striving to counter China’s global influence. The most recent examples are when Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid a visit to Oman in February, 2018 and secured access to naval facilities in the Middle Eastern state which is near to Strait of Hormuz. Moreover, India has also signed an agreement for 20-years with the Seychelles to build an airstrip and a jetty for its navy in a quest to check-mate China.

Read more: The US-Sino Great Game: Washington embraces Indian position on CPEC

Likewise in November, 2017, Modi signed a pact with Singapore that may boost Indian access to that country’s Changi naval base. The naval cooperation will give both countries an opportunity to increase naval cooperation. David Brewster, senior research fellow at the Australian National University, wrote in a February note published on think tank The Lowy Institute said, “It seems that we are in the middle of a base race across the Indian Ocean.”

Some security analysts opine that commercial projects taken by Indian and Chinese companies may be used for the military purposes in future. For instance, when China Merchants Port Holdings signed a 99-year lease on Sri Lanka’s Hambantota Port in July, 2017 it also agreed to pay $1.12 billion for an 85 percent share in Hambantota port on a 99-year lease.

China being the world’s second largest economy is building a network of its defense and commercial facilities under its “String of Pearls” strategy. In this quest, China had revealed its plans to establish its first overseas military base in Djibouti, Horns of Africa in 2016.

Later, in December, 2017, Sri Lanka formally handed over its southern port of Hambantota to China. This development raised eyebrows in India. After a few months Reuters reported, “New Delhi was looking to take over Hambantota’s local airport.” This demonstrates that both countries are scrambling to gain more influence in the Indian Ocean. China has invested in other Indian Ocean regional countries which include Maldives and Myanmar where India fears that China would use these areas for military purposes.

Read more: China’s ‘great game’ in its near-abroad

On the other hand, India and Iran have been developing Chabahar Port (a transit route between India, Iran and Afghanistan) to counter China-Pakistan joint development project: CPEC. India does not need to counter China Pakistan Economic Corridor Project as it is an inclusive project and welcomes other states to invest in the project. But India is pursuing its own strategic interests to exert more influence in Afghanistan.

India’s growing influence in Afghanistan with the support of the United States is tilting the balance of power of South Asia towards India. In the meantime, both China, India are militarizing and nuclearizing the Indian Ocean. Many Indian political analysts see Indian Ocean as India’s ocean since it is its backyard.  


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