This is continuation of So whose backyard is Indian Ocean anyway ? (Part 1) | UjwalAndhra Pradesh.
So you can brush up Part 1, and come here to read the Part 2.
This post will see us to the island nations in the Indian Ocean, namely Mahe of Seychelles, Male of Maldives and Diego Garcia [UK]. These ports have become strategically important because of their geographical position and establishing military and defense outposts of India, China and America.
In Dec, 2011 China announced that it would establish its first military base in the Indian Ocean on Mahe in the Seychelles. The base agreement followed a December 2011 state visit by Chinese Defense Minister Gen Liang Guanglie, and was premised on Chinese assistance in anti-piracy operations. The Chinese Navy has paid sporadic port visits to the Seychelles since 2010. A Chinese Type 052 heavy destroyer was deployed to the Seychelles to participate in their National Day parade in June 2012.
Since then, however, few details have been available on China’s plans for the Seychelles. Some experts have cited reports that China aims to establish a “relatively fixed supply base for warship berthing, fixed-wing reconnaissance aircraft and the naval staff ashore rest,” which would be “dual-use” in nature. To date, however, there remain few indications that China has made any substantive progress towards these goals.
In January 2013 the International Herald Leader, a subsidiary of the state-run Xinhua newspaper agency, published a commentary that urged the PLA Navy to build overseas naval bases in order to protect energy supply lines from the Middle East. Chinese tourism to the Seychelles has increased, and there is an active Chinese community in the capital city of Victoria.
The United States has a defense relationship with the Seychelles and deploys surveillance drones from its airport. Officially, the United States has welcomed Chinese anti-piracy deployments to the Seychelles, and confirmed that U.S. and Chinese military activity in the region need not be mutually exclusive. India, who also makes regular naval visits to the Seychelles, is most wary of the deployments.
Since 2009, China and India have competed for influence in the Maldives. When China began talks with Maldives’ officials regarding security operations to combat drug smuggling, terrorism, and piracy, India responded by announcing it would establish a naval base and a listening post on the small island nation. As part of the Maritime Silk Road initiative, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the Maldives in September of 2014, pledging to build a new bridge that would connect the island of Male with the island of Hulhule. Xi also pledged USD 97 million in grant assistance to the Maldives and USD 3.2 million in military cooperation.
In the Future
As China moves forward with its Maritime Silk Road initiatives, it seems likely that it will increase investment and focus on the archipelago. Though China is interested in establishing friendly ports and military bases across the region for resupply purposes, it also has long term ambitions in cultivating a friendly soft-power environment through trade, tourism, and diplomacy. The First Meeting of the China-Maldives Joint Committee on Trade and Economic Cooperation was held in Beijing on December 18, 2014. Chinese investment in Maldives tourism is expected to rise, with 30 percent of the archipelago’s tourism currently flowing from China.
The Maldives has little interest in pursuing any type of exclusive relationship with China that would block U.S. or Indian access to their facilities and infrastructure. Given its strategic location, the Maldives provide China unique access to facilities in Pakistan and the Gulf of Aden. The Maldives, of course, faces a profound threat from climate change and may be underwater by 2040. As one Indian naval official noted “even if it goes under water … it will be ideal for submarines.”
Diego Garcia, British Indian Ocean Territory
Diego Garcia is a small, 17 square mile atoll in the Chagos archipelago of the Indian Ocean. The United Kingdom leased the island during the Cold War and, since the early 1970s, the atoll has been home to a major U.S. military base hosting 3,000-5,000 U.S. and British personnel. 2,000 native Chagossians were relocated from the island by the British government in advance of U.S. occupation. The United States has deployed B-1, B-2, and B-52 bombers from Diego Garcia, as well as numerous naval and embarked forces from the atoll.
Diego Garcia was a crucial supporting base in the 1991 Gulf War, as well as the more recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The contract between the United States and Britain allowing access to Diego Garcia is up for renewal in 2016, the 50th anniversary of its signing. It may be delayed or complicated due to allegations that the United States used the atoll for extraordinary rendition during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
Diego Garcia’s strategic significance stems from its utility as a base for long-range bombers and a stage for naval assets for ongoing operations in the Middle East, Indian subcontinent, and Southeast Asia. If not for Diego Garcia, the United States would have to examine other basing options in the Indian Ocean, perhaps with other island powers. Analysts have described Diego Garcia as the center point of the U.S. Indian Ocean strategy.
Ujwalandhra Pradesh (@ujwalandhra) July 08, 2015
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