Why is China expanding its military footprints in the Indian Ocean?
India-China stand-off at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Galwan valley is not the only thing to worry about as China is expanding its footprint in the Indian Ocean. As per several reports and satellite pictures, China is modernising its military base at Djibouti. Over several years, China has increased its military presence in the Indian Ocean via 'Debt Trap Diplomacy' and 'String of Pearls Strategy'.
In 2017, China set up a logistics support unit at Djibouti port which is now being modernised to a full-fledged naval base with a 1,120-feet pier, as per the satellite images of May 2020. The naval base can now harbour China's largest aircraft carrier-- Liaoning. The images suggest that the naval base is built like a modern-day castle with steep berms topped by towers and two rows of walls.
Increasing military footprint in the Indian Ocean
In January 2020, Gwadar port of Pakistan was in the news as China has built several complexes housing anti-vehicle spikes, security fences and a high wall. These complexes are surrounded by high-security apparatus. In addition to this, China is also planning to deploy nuclear submarines at the Gwadar port which is situated in southwestern Pakistan to surveillance Indian Navy.
Also, the satellite images of February 2020 suggests that China is constructing 60,000 sq km Artificial Island in the Maldives.
Another threat to India is the construction of a permanent submarine base in Cox Bazaar in Bangladesh. This means that China will now have visiting rights to the region and may dock its submarines near the eastern coast of India. For this purpose, Chinese state-owned company, Powertech Technology Inc, has been contracted.
Why is China expanding its footprint in the Indian Ocean?
China wants to collect intelligence reports of operational requirements against its key adversaries like the US and India. It wants to control smaller nations through its coercive diplomacy. China will enable affecting operations on its adversaries-- India, Japan, the US, Australia, etc.-- after collecting the information with a planned strategy.
However, China has always denied surrounding India through its String of Pearl strategy. It defends its move to militarize the Indian Ocean by citing non-combat activities in the region focussing majorly on investments, counterterrorism, etc.
To counter China's String of Pearls strategy, India has started working on the 'Necklace of Diamonds' strategy. Under this, India will be encircling China by building the naval base at Dqum in Oman, Diago Garcia in the UK, Chahbar in Iran, Sabang in Indonesia, Assumption in Seychelles and Changi in Singapore. India is also working to improve relations with Japan, Vietnam and Mongolia.
What is Debt Trap Diplomacy?
Debt Trap Diplomacy is used by China to lure strategically located developing nations to borrow infrastructural loans. If these nations fail to repay the loans on time, China pressurizes them to support its geostrategic interests. Example: After indebting Africa, China will occupy Kenya's immensely profitable Mombasa port.
What is the String of Pearls Strategy?
The string of Pearls Strategy is a geopolitical theory of China and is related to the Chinese intentions in the Indian Ocean-- military, commercial, sea line communication and diplomatic-- to contain Indian hold in the region. China is creating a ring around India through strategically placed nations such as at Chittagong (Bangladesh), at Karachi, Gwadar port (Pakistan) and at Colombo, Hambantota (both in Sri Lanka) and other facilities.