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Editorial:Act Before China’s Giant ‘Necklace’ Turns Noose for India’s Growth

Port Wings, 25 April 2018:

Its China again, and this time, it is about its tactical advancement through India’s maritime and land boundaries on both east and west. And, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Maldives and Pakistan are already in their grip of economic support and if India not acts to lure back the like-minded neighbours soon, it may end up in real miseries in coming decades.

While the deepwater port at Gwadar, Pakistan, represents China’s first strategic foothold in the Arabian Sea, Beijing’s influence in Myanmar’s Coco Island near Andamans and ports in Hambantota in Sri Lanka and Chittagong in Bangladesh cements its strong presence in Bay of Bengal.

Besides, China’s growing clout in Bangladeshi port of Chittagong and its increasing economic interest in the Maldives in Indian Ocean clearly proves that Beijing wants to contain India’s growth in general and maritime superiority in particular.

According to experts, these developments around India’s waters clearly underscore the emerging Chinese challenge to the country’s traditional dominance in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

With a coastline of over 7,800 km, 90 per cent of India’s international trade and 77 per cent of trade in terms of value is carried out through the sea.

China’s flagship maritime strategy is the “Island Chain,” a concept that Chief Naval Commander Liu Huaqing presented in 1982. The aim of the Island Chain is for China to expand its naval control to counter the U.S.

The first chain is a line linking Okinawa, Taiwan and South China Sea, and the second is a line connecting U.S. territories of Saipan, Guam and Palau Islands. The Pearl Chain is a military strategy that Beijing openly pursues, but the goal of the Pearl Necklace is comprehensive. China claims that acquiring foreign ports is a measure taken for commercial and economic purposes, but the U.S. and India suspects that they could transform into military hubs.

Time has come to realize the country’s true potential as a security provider in the Indian Ocean. New Delhi needs to develop a comprehensive programme to contain Chinese growth as well as secure country’s maritime prospects.

What is missing in Delhi is that passion for maritime strategy among its political leadership and the business-as-usual approach by the bureaucratic leadership of the government. However, we hope that the powerful government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi would certainly look at the Chinese string of pearls and try to counter them with apt model.

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