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BRI to increase China's strategic presence in Indian Ocean, says US top general

Press Trust of India  |  Washington 

Aligning with India's posture, a top today said China's access to Pakistan's Port has the potential to increase Beijing's strategic presence in the

Joseph Votel, of the US Central Command, said was pursuing long-term, steady economic growth that bolsters its international influence and access to

"Its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which includes the Pakistan-Economic Corridor (CPEC), could serve as a stabilising, profit-generating project in the region, but could also improve China's military posture," he told members of the Senate during a Congressional hearing.

Votel said the collection of infrastructure projects provides access to the Port in which has the potential to increase its strategic presence in the has been raising the same concern repeatedly.

Chinese Xi Jinping's ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) focuses on improving connectivity and cooperation among Asian countries, Africa, China and

is opposed to the BRI as it includes the CPEC which transverses through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

"China also recently established its first overseas military base adjacent to the Bab al Mandeb (BAM) in While claims both locations support peacekeeping and humanitarian operations, the new military base and port allow China to project forces more permanently within the region and influence strategically valuable trade waterways," Votel said.

China, Votel said, also seeks to increase its economic and diplomatic cooperation with

The lifting of UN sanctions under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) opened the path for to resume membership application to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, a Eurasian political, economic, and security organisation.This, along with the existing BRI cooperation between the two nations, increases China's ties to Iran, he said.

China considers its relationship with the (GCC) states critical for its current economic needs, he added.

The Gulf States provide approximately one-third of China's oil, and is its single largest supplier of natural gas, Votel said.

The said like Russia, China has sought to arbitrate some conflicts in the region, offering to mediate between and While China will continue to develop its relationships with nations in the Middle East, will likely maintain its stance of avoiding a major role in ongoing conflicts, he noted.

Votel said an increasingly assertive China is not only testing Russia's dominance in the economic and security arenas of but also posing challenges to US influence.

"China seeks to capitalise on regional concerns over what it perceives as waning US influence and support," he said.

Toward this end, is building and strengthening trade, infrastructure, defense, and political relationships across the Middle East, Central and South Asia, he added.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, February 28 2018. 13:35 IST