Island Nations Play China, India
12/01/2013 Deja un comentario
(…..) India had always viewed Maldives important for maintaining security in the Indian Ocean region, but the attempts by Beijing to expand its footprint in Maldives and the region have raised the stakes for New Delhi. China has been forging special ties with the other island nations on India’s periphery including Sri Lanka, Seychelles and Mauritius. China’s attempt to gain a foothold in the Indian Ocean came into stark relief the last year when reports emerged of offer from Seychelles, another strategically located island nation in the Indian Ocean, to China for a base to provide relief and resupply facilities to (PLA) People’s Liberation Army Navy. Though promptly denied by Beijing, the offer underscored changing balance of power in the region. India has traditionally been main defense provider for Seychelles, providing armaments and training to its Peoples’ Defence Forces, or SPDF. India extended a $50 million line of credit and $25 million grant to Seychelles in 2012 in attempt to cement strategic ties. China has been proactive in courting Seychelles since former Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to the island nation in 2007. Much to India’s consternation, Beijing participates in training SPDF, provides military hardware. China has expanded the military cooperation with Seychelles, providing 2 Y-2 turboprop aircrafts for surveillance of the economic exclusion zone. Chinese defense minister was in Sri Lanka in October to offer support worth $100 million for various welfare projects in northern and eastern Sri Lanka, areas beset with Tamil insurgency. At a time when domestic political constraints have made it difficult for New Delhi to reach out to Colombo, Beijing has been quick to fill that vacuum. Even Mauritius, security of which is virtually guaranteed by Indian naval presence, can’t resist the lure of Beijing funds. With the rise in the military capabilities of China and India, the two are increasingly rubbing against each other; China expands its presence in Indian Ocean region and India makes its presence felt in East and Southeast Asia. In this context, Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid recently suggested India must accept “the new reality” of China’s presence in areas it considers exclusive, seeming acknowledgement both South Asian and Indian Ocean regions are rapidly being shaped by Chinese presence. China’s rising profile in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region isn’t news. What’s significant is the diminishing role of India and the rapidity with which New Delhi has ceded strategic space to Beijing in regions traditionally considered India’s periphery. This quiet assertion of China has allowed smaller countries to play China off against India. Most states in the region use the China card to balance against India’s predominance. Forced to exist between two giant neighbors, smaller states have responded with a careful balancing act. The recent spat between New Delhi and Male merely reflects evolving ground realities in the Indian Ocean region.