Table of Contents:

Areas of conflict

The Indian Ocean has a number of highly conflictive sub-regions and numerous territorial disputes. Beijing poured oil onto the fire by issuing passports with a map marking all contested areas as indisputable Chinese territory.[1] [2] [3] These passports triggered severe diplomatic reactions throughout the region. China should be more careful, because their reputation in the protesting states could be a decisive factor for the success of Chinese regional strategies.

South Asia

China builds up its influence in South Asia, which is in the sphere of influence of India, to surround their most potent adversary. China invests in the Pakistani port of Gwadar, because it eventually wants to gain permission to build a naval base in Pakistan. Beijing also offers deliveries of military vessels and investment offers in billions of USD to the Bangladeshi deep sea port of Chittagong, which is a part of the “String of Pearls” scheme. China’s plans in Bangladesh suffered a blow, since the pro-Indian Awami League came to power. Beijing had very good relations with the ousted BNP (Bangladesh Nationalist Party) and the victory of the Awami League substantially reduced Chinese influence in Bangladesh.

The Chinese have gained a lot of positive points in Sri Lanka by helping the central government in Colombo in its fight against Tamil rebels. After the victory of the central government, which took 25 years, Chinese influence was peaking. This is important because China wants to invest in the Hamantota port, which is in the voting district controlled by the family of Mahinda Rajapaksa-the current president of Sri Lanka.

Another strong point in the “String of Pearls” is Kyaukpyu in Myanmar. China still applies its strategy and secures relations with Burma by supporting the authoritative regime in Rangun through economic means. The reason for that might be the importance of Myanmar as a transit country for oil and natural gas. Chinese long term support of the Junta in Rangoon offers an opportunity for the USA. Washington applies soft power and has supported democratic reform for long time. The USA also has a better reputation among secessionist minorities, including the Kachin, Shan and Mon tribes, who controlled the territory de facto before the emergence of independent Burma. Those tribes were persecuted by the military junta from the beginning of the 1950’s. Changes in the politics of Myanmar and gradual political reforms could endanger Chinese investment in the military regime and infrastructure projects.

India has responded to Chinese politics in Myanmar by building the deep sea port of Sittwe. India has developed the Sittwe port to become a major transport hub for Southwest Myanmar and Northeast India. Delhi also has adequate capacities to instantly eliminate Chinese influence in Sri

Lanka. India could use direct naval force or support the Tamil rebels in order to incapacitate the current government in Sri Lanka. India additionally has the means to influence Bangladeshi politics, namely the Awami League, which is currently in power.

  • [1] Curtis and Cheng, The China Challenge: A Strategic Vision for U.S.-IndiaRelations.
  • [2] Kaplan, ref. 6, 202.
  • [3] Kaiman, “Chinese passport map causes diplomatic dispute.”
 
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