With reference to “A new Cold War in the Indian Ocean” (December 17), in China’s struggle to rise to its perceived natural place at the “centre of the earth”, its key competitor is not the US but India. Of its neighbours, only India can challenge China as a regional power. In recent years China has shown an undue interest in the Bay of Bengal, Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea. The maritime Silk Road scheme is linked to its plans to secure bases for its navy through harbour improvement projects like Gwadar in Pakistan or the Hambantota in Sri Lanka, not forgetting the Djibouti on the African horn. Hambantota sits in a very strategic location, just a few miles north of the vital Indian Ocean shipping lane over which more than 80 per cent of China’s imported oil travels. This confirms the “string of pearls” concept along with Maldives that China is assembling all along the so-called Maritime Silk Road. The Indian Ocean is emerging as China’s next major option under the proposal of “Reviving the Maritime Silk” route.
It is well known that the Indian Ocean forms one of the world’s most important maritime routes and is the global system’s centre of gravity. The Malacca Strait is a 550 mile-long passage between Sumatra and Malaysia through which passes over 50,000 ships a year. The maritime Silk Road scheme is inseparably linked to China’s efforts to secure footholds for its navy through infrastructure and harbour improvement projects. As an economic powerhouse of this century, it is paradoxical that China is waging a psychological war often reminding India of how weak it is, which to say the least is insensitive. India needs to be alert about China’s plans to beef up the country’s global economic muscle. India should take calculated view of this developing issue as its own economic rights to transit through the Indian Ocean and seas will be challenged. India has limited options to take the right steps in the larger interests of its security and safety. India desires cordial, harmonious, fraternal and business relationships with China, but it is up to the latter to reciprocate and inspire this confidence in India if progress is to be achieved on all shared interests.
H N Ramakrishna Bengaluru Letters can be mailed, faxed or e-mailed to: The Editor, Business Standard Nehru House, 4 Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg New Delhi 110 002 Fax: (011) 23720201 · E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org All letters must have a postal address and telephone number