The contours of Chinese MSR (Maritime Silk Route) are quickly unfolding. China has increased its both economic and military presence through this initiative.
a. A military base in Djibouti which is strategically located connecting Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. Recently China has also signed a deal to build Free Trade Zones in the country and providing nearly $12.4 billion hat Djibouti intends to invest by 2020.
b. China has also signed a deal to develop an Industrial Park and a deep water port in Kyaukphyu in Myanmar. This facility in Bay of Bengal will help China avoid Strait of Malacca, secured by USA.
c. Maday Island Terminal and the Yanbye Island Terminal that China is building in Kyaukphyu has already added to the energy security of China as gas and oil pipeline have been laid to Chinese Yunan Province from these places.
d. China has also indicated to the revival of Colombo Port city and Hambantota SEZ project in Sri Lanka.
About Chinese One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative-
1. What is it?
a. One Belt, One Road is a chinese initiative unveiled by Chinese leader Xi Jinping in 2013
b. It consists of 2 components,
i. Belt : Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB)-
1. It involves land corridor connectivity from China to Central Asia and West Asia, going all the way to Europe;
2. Also includes China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) Economic Corridor
ii. Road : Maritime Silk Road (MSR) -
1. MSR involves maritime connec-tivity through the Strait of Malacca to India, and onwards to West Asia and East Africa
c. This will involve
i. Building physical infrastructure (highways, railways, ports in coastal nations, fibre-optic lines)
ii. Establish free trade zones (by coordinating customs, quality supervision, e-commerce etc)
iii. Increasing cultural exchange etc.
d. Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) will be used to fund it. Most of the countries have joined it.
a. China's aim to take a bigger role in regional & global economics and geopolitics;
b. Invest the surplus it has accumulated;
c. According to China it will generate trade above a jaw-dropping $2.5 trillion;
d. Increase its export further;
e. To help balance the economic inequities between the highly developed coastal region and under-developed interior of China;
f. China is heavily dependent on the sea trade (~80% of crude oil imported via strait of Malacca), so wants to reduce its dependence on the Straits of Malacca, militarily dominated by the U.S;
g. Along with AIIB it goes a long way as an outreach program;
h. Increasing its presence in Indian ocean
i. Can also have hidden military-strategic intentions as details are not out;
j. It's an answer to US Pivot to asia; there are plans of Australia joining the indo-japan-US trilateral;
k. By way of developing infrastructure in other countries it wants to Potray its benevolent/soft side as opposed to the image of growing military power involved in number of disputes’
3. As a threat to India's national security:
a. The biggest threat comes from the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is an integral part of SREB in 2 ways:
i. See notes of CPEC from China-Pak notes
b. MSR poses two broad challenges to India:
i. Poses challenge to India's maritime presence in Indian ocean and even South-China sea.
ii. US, Australia and ASEAN countries want India to play a larger role in this region.
c. Will strengthen the string of pearl; will reach Gwadar, China is also planning to extend railway line to Nepal; will increase presence in SAARC
4. Way forward:
a. Has India joined it?
b. Given India's strategic location in Asia, India is an important country for the execution of the 'Silk Road' projects. So what must be India's response?
c. India should ask China to reveal more details;
d. Openly articulate its claims over POK on a regular basis, a matter that is closely linked to India's sovereignty. It should raise the issue with China at bilateral level- ask China to reconsider the execution of CPEC-related projects.
e. If it joins then should bargain with China for more access to its market and take steps to tilt the balance in trade.
5. Steps taken by India:
1. Launched in June 2014
2. It is a Ministry of Culture project to be implemented by Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA)
3. Aim : To understand how the knowledge and manipulation of the monsoon winds shaped interactions across the Indian Ocean
4. Activities under it :
a. At the macro level : Re-establish communications between countries of the Indian Ocean world
b. At the micro level : Understanding national cultures in their regional maritime milieu.
5. According to many it is an answer to growing Chinese maritime silk route.
6. Pursue it more aggressively
Indian Ocean Maritime Security Group
1. Launched in 2011
2. Members : India, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Seychelles and Mauritius
3. Task: To share information about illegal activities (piracy, counter terrorism, drug trafficking) in Indian ocean.