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China is slowly increasing its political, economic and military influence in the Bay of Bengal by forging maritime ties with the countries such as Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh through infrastructural fundings, a senior Indian navy officer said here on Monday.
However, there is an amount of skepticism about China's military initiatives in the region, Eastern Naval Command chief, Vice Admiral H.C.S. Bisht said at a programme.
Speaking at a workshop on "India's Maritime Connectivity: Importance of the Bay of Bengal" organised by the Observer Research Foundation, he identified three trends that mark the maritime security situation in the region.
"The first is that US and some other progressive nations like Australia, Singapore and Japan are investing on purpose to make their presence felt in the Bay of Bengal to limit the power and influence of other nations, particularly China, while securing their military axis and engaging with anti-piracy and terrorism operations," said Bisht.
The second trend concerned China.
"China is slowly and surely increasing its political, economic and military influence in inevitable competitions with the US and India.
"The Chinese strategy is to develop the dependencies among nations like Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh through their initiatives like the maritime silk route and the recently introduced 'one belt one road; initiative," Bisht said.
"However, there is an amount of skepticism about their military initiatives in the region," he said.
The navy officer said the maritime domain of the Bay of Bengal has achieved renewed significance on several fronts, particularly due to India's Look East policy.
The Indian Navy's capability has been significantly enhanced on the east coast, as the sea line is "strategically important" to the nation in addressing security issues and threats from the rivals.
"There has been a progressive enhancement of the Indian navy's capability on the east coast to increase the military assets on the east coast as well as in the Andaman and Nicobar islands," said Bisht.
"The Bay of Bengal is strategically important for India as it provides considerable leverage against rivals and helps in addressing the security issues that directly threaten Indian interest, including terrorism, piracy, smuggling and insurgency," he explained.
He also claimed that the infrastructural development would help "further increase India's maritime connectivity and achieve economic progress".
Asserting that the opportunities and threats necessitate a coordinated approach to achieve success, Bisht said that cooperation, rather than destructive competition is the need of the hour.
"The maritime domain of the Bay of Bengal offers the potential of being a medium of choice for regional cooperation, regional security and share economic progress for the countries that border it. Cooperation rather than destructive competition is the needed in the Bay of Bengal," he added.