China’s Indian Ocean forum
Why in news?
China convened a first “ChinaIndian Ocean Region Forum” bringing together 19 countries from the region and all of India’s neighbours, except for India itself, the lone absentee from a new Beijing strategic initiative
- The forum, held in Kunming in southwestern Yunnan province, brought together representatives from 19 countries
- Australia and Maldives did not participate in the Indian Ocean Region Forum convened by China
- The event was quietly held along with many other events including the 6th China-South Asia expo, and the China-Indian Ocean region thinktank forum in a hybrid format
- Hosted by: China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA) (formulates policies and coordinates major foreign aid issues)
What are the main proposal through forum?
- To establish a blue economy think tank network for China and countries in the Indian Ocean region with the support of Yunnan
- Establish a marine disaster prevention and mitigation cooperation mechanism between China and countries in the Indian Ocean region, by providing necessary financial, material, and technical support to countries in need
Which countries were invited ?
- Invited countries: Indonesia, Pakistan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Maldives, Nepal, Afghanistan, Iran, Oman, South Africa, Kenya, Mozambique, Tanzania, Seychelles, Madagascar, Mauritius, Djibouti, and Australia
Why this forum is important ?
- The forum underlined China’s stepped up diplomacy in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR)
- The vast resource base of the Indian Ocean, and the passage of strategic sea lines of communication through the IOR, the Indian Ocean littoral has gained prominence in the Chinese policy framework and its expansive Belt and Road Initiative
Chinese Major Investments in Indian ocean region
- It has created stakes with investments in ports and other infrastructure in the region, from Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Pakistan in the west to Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique in the east, and the many islands dotting the vast ocean between
- China has established a full-fledged naval base in Djibouti, its first outside the country ,has acquired the Hambantota port in Sri Lanka on a 99-year lease besides building the port at Pakistan’s Gwadar in the Arabian Sea opposite India’s western coast besides infrastructure investments in the Maldives.
Counter to India ?
- India was not invited to this forum, experts as an attempt to challenge India’s traditional presence in the region amid apprehensions of politicization of the Indian Ocean region
- It aimed at countering India’s strong influence in the Indian Ocean region where India-backed organisations like the Indian Ocean Rim Association, (IORA), which has a membership of 23 countries have taken strong roots.
- Besides the IORA, India proposed “Security and Growth for All in the Region” (SAGAR) in 2015 for active cooperation among the littoral countries of the Indian Ocean region, on those par china established this forum
- Beijing accused of engaging in “debt diplomacy” in these countries under its Belt and Road Initiative allegedly in the name of infrastructure development owes to have large presence