China’s “String of Pearls”: The encirclement of India & how to break the chakravyuh?

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By Aashish, 

Strategic Frontier Research Foundation

Preface

The world is seeing the rise of a new world order with economic interdependence and cooperation amongst different nations at a level unmatched at any other instance in history. The changing dynamics have not left the Asian Continent untouched, with new, increasingly complex and multilateral relations being formed between the nations every day. The last two decades have seen the spectacular rise of China as an economic powerhouse and, in a post-Cold War world, the emergence of a new geopolitical climate.

China’s engagement with all of the neighbouring countries with respect to power projections and foreign policy is well known. Be it in the form of hostilities for pending unresolved ‘issues’, state-sponsored and private economic investments, indirect proxy wars and trying to install governments which are under her direct/indirect control.

Over the last decade, there has been a marked increase in these activities and trying to wrest control over specific nations which China has identified as strategically important. These countries overtly represent the trade routes, oil supply and sea lines of communication but covertly also enable viable replenishment and supply base for her Military especially for the PLAN (People’s Liberation Army Navy [1]). Through the direct and indirect investment of money, power, politics and military aid, China has created an astonishingly beautiful encirclement of India at various levels.

This analysis is meant to understand this encirclement (chakravyuh) and how India can fight this out. The views and opinion in this analysis are based on open sources and connecting the dots to build and analyse. Qualitatively looking at the chief issues and possible solutions let us to firmly believe that all is not lost in this big geopolitical game. The whole encirclement can be broken and restricted to what can be either a mutual benefit to India or to a position which will not threaten India over coming decades.

Chapter 1 

Introduction

China has been making direct and indirect investments in Asia and African region from the early 2000s. However, in last 5 years, there has been marked an increase in its initiatives to make all these outward reaches into strategic geopolitical tools. The chief tool is shown in the picture below

986Figure 1 – OBOR or One Belt, One Road initiative connecting Land (red) and Maritime Silk roads (blue) [2]

OBOR has been represented as an economic tool [3]. It has been defined in many circles as the blueprint connecting over 60 countries accounting for 60% of the world’s population. Its collective GDP equivalent is approximated to be over one-third of the world’s wealth. The economic corridors OBOR proposes are as under

1. New Eurasian Land Bridge

2. China – Mongolia – Russia Corridor

3. China – Central Asia – West Asia Corridor

4. China – Indochina Peninsula Corridor

5. China – Pakistan Corridor

6. Bangladesh – China – India – Myanmar Corridor

These economic corridors effectively constitute the framework of the OBOR initiative beyond China’s borders

The location and structure of the corridors are shown in the map below, which also outlines the route of 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.

Figure 2 – The six economic corridors proposed under OBOR

Owing to Indian reservations and non-commitment, the whole initiative has not been fully successful. But the foundation of this whole initiative as a concept and realisation has progressed with multiple overt and covert investments in various domains.

The extent of Chinese investments has been well documented and in various fields especially infrastructure. The Figure below depicts such forecasted investments in our area of interest over next 5 years. Strikingly Beijing has been pushing its soft power status as much as possible opening up new routes of communication, access to markets and also enabling power play into the domestic political setup in most of these places.

Figure 3 Chinese Investments in 2017-21 [4]

With the above figure, the adjoining commentary [4] stated

In 14th May 2017, this year, Mr Xi pledged an additional $124 billion towards his $900 billion “Belt and Road” initiative, a global trade and infrastructure drive that he is promoting as a long-term “win-win” campaign for the 65 nations that have signed up to it. Most western leaders stayed away from a two-day summit highlighting Chinese ambition to secure greater influence, but the 28 heads of state present at what Mr Xi called “a gathering of great minds” included President Putin of Russia and President Erdogan of Turkey.

If the OBOR was just the threat owing to economic aid and strengthening China’s position by accessing more markets at reduced cost and secured lines, few analysts went ahead and declared another stratagem called String of Pearls [5]

In an article in The Washington Times dated January 17, 2005 [6], it was disclosed that

“China is building strategic relationships along the sea lanes from the Middle East to the South China Sea in ways that suggest defensive and offensive positioning to protect China’s energy interests, but also to serve broad security objectives,” said the report sponsored by the director, Net Assessment, who heads Mr. Rumsfeld’s office on future-oriented strategies.

In spite of this disclosure, officially China never uses this terminology but its recent spate of actions indicate this stratagem being used from the South China Sea to Djibouti and in between CPEC project and Gwadar development, Hambantota development in Sri Lanka, Port construction in Myanmar, Container facility in Bangladesh and even overtures to open a path to Nepal. The map below gives an accurate idea of this aspect

Figure 4 – China’s String of Pearls in the Indian Ocean. (Map Courtesy CIMSEC)

The “string of pearls” concept is often viewed a military initiative, with the aim of providing China’s navy access to a series of ports stretching from the South China Sea to the Arabian Sea. This has caused some consternation, particularly in India, which sees itself as being encircled. [7]

On July 12, 2017, when Chinese troops started moving into Djibouti for deployment into the 1st overseas base, this encirclement more or less became prominent. China’s Military and assets being deployed to secure their strategic investments causes a big headache for India from Political, Economic, Military and strategic perspectives. The game is set for a great rivalry between India and China with China already making the first move and entwining India into this chakravyuh. How India responds and what will be the best course of action going forward, this paper will analyse it in subsequent chapters.

Chapter 2

The String of Pearls

First, what is String of Pearls? The earliest definition that emerged is from July 2006 [7]

Each “pearl” in the “String of Pearls” is a nexus of Chinese geopolitical influence or military presence. An upgraded airstrip on Woody Island, located in the Paracel archipelago 300 nautical miles east of Vietnam, is a “pearl.” A container shipping facility in Chittagong, Bangladesh, is a “pearl.” Construction of a deepwater port in Sittwe, Myanmar, is a “pearl,” as is the construction of a navy base in Gwadar, Pakistan.Port and airfield construction projects, diplomatic ties, and force modernization form the essence of China’s “String of Pearls.” The “pearls” extend from the coast of mainland China through the littorals of the South China Sea, the Strait of Malacca, across the Indian Ocean, and on to the littorals of the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf. China is building strategic relationships and developing a capability to establish a forward presence along the sea lines of communication (SLOCs) that connect China to the Middle East

Figure – 5 – Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC) for China

The whole ruse of economic development for friendly nation followed by protecting such investments via Military deployment is the outcome of this strategy. The overt need of finding market accessibility, the resolute case of demonstrating growing financial might and increasing the geopolitical influences seems to be the key motivating factors for the peaceful nature of these pearl formations. The pretext got further strengthened by the Somali pirates causing harm to the SLOCs.

Figure 6 – Somalian Piracy – Threat map – 2005-2010 [8]

Connecting the figure 6 with figure 4 now reveals how the anti-piracy and protecting the SLOCs became paramount to the military aspect of the strategy. Unfortunately, the dual use aspect of the infrastructure build-up may enable China to use her men, planes, ships and submarines with vital capabilities to choke the whole of Indian SLOCs as well.

The resulted base in Djibouti, Gwadar and many more places where a submarine can berth for supply replenishment is not just for anti-piracy measures but rather increasing the militarization aspect and controlling the rivals whom China considers as a threat for herself. These SLOCs common to both India and China also houses the largest route of Oil supply for the major part of the world. Busiest to the core, this corridor serves as nationally important aspect for multiple nations and this provide China with additional ammunition to either gain more geopolitical respect or to create choke points which can create issues and even cripple the adversaries. The usage of proxy elements as pirates to continuously harass a group of particular shipping lanes and countries dependent on it can become a big tool as well. Especially with the fact that China shares the highest number of border disputes and it has maintained an aggressive posture in claiming such disputed lands as their own and even going to the extent of putting military assets to protect the same.

Chapter 3

India’s geopolitical issues with String of Pearls

Rear Admiral K Raja Menon (Retd) has summed it up as the following areas of geopolitical concern for India wrt the string of pearls [9]

Figure 7 – Areas of geopolitical concern

If we see this figure, it is easier to understand that both India and China basically square off and have no advantage over the whole area of concern. For India one side its the high mountains in the East, Planes in the West and Sea in the South. Each of the places with distinct advantages and disadvantages. For China, the whole of IOR is a long distance away from mainland requiring a formidable Blue Water Fleet to actually protect it. The Tibetan region dispute is well known for both India and China and thus it remains a status quo. The movement if it happens deep inside Myanmar literally will also stretch their supply line. The Myanmar government in spite of Chinese overtures also wishes to be in good books with India for the road and connecting infrastructure enabling it to have land transit routes too.   Thus all types of chess games as of now basically point to a draw status.

The change in the strategic strength happens via fundamental instability of Pakistan and China’s huge investment in CPEC or China Pakistan Economic Corridor. [10] Over the last few years slowly the Chinese investments and buying of Stakes in Pakistani State Enterprise mean there is a dramatic increase in controlling form over Pakistan. With the further extent of military cooperation, assets being supplied with long-term loans and establishment of proxies to control state machinery, China’s control and changeover of Pakistan into its own province or vassal state is almost complete. The issue of proxy elements is already well known with the usage of terror proxies and aiding them with arms and financial aid in North East India. With the radicalised religion based proxies in Chinese hands, there seems a greater stability-instability paradox. On the side it keeps India engaged with constant de-stabilisation aspects and on the other side, the same radicalised elements can also cause a religion based extremism elemental increase in Chinese provinces closer to Pakistan. The extent of the fallout from such a situation is a worrisome factor and coupled with mainstreaming the terror elements into the political front to gain legitimacy and recognition points to a grave concern. On one side the Chinese investments and underlying security make its investments very much secured yet they further went ahead and ensured the income generated via this whole project, trade increase and even transport plus transit benefit China far greater than Pakistan. This implies over time, there will be a deep grudge built up which can be exploited by radicals and can unite all under the name of one religion to fight against this oppressive stance of China. This will throw the whole Western Border of India and the adjoining geopolitical concern into chaos and possibly lead to Syria 2.0 scenario all over again.

The other area of concern is the Middle East. The house of almost all problems exists as of today in spite of Oil being the largest resource allowing them to manipulate the whole world economy as per their whims. Yet there is Saudi Arabia Qatar issue, Iran hotbed, Syria- ISIS, Turkey NATO to and fro stances, Israel-Palestine, Hizbollah-Hamas, Nuclear Weapon and continuous quest for an Islamic Bomb under their control – the list is pretty long. The illegal trading and proliferation of Oil and changing the small guidelines to hurt Import dependent economy like India is a big risk. The challenge for India is that each side will insist on a mutually beneficial relationship with India but also insist on differentiating between their own friendly and enemy nations wrt to India’s relationship. As India is dependent on ME for Oil, our stance and our strategies have to be very careful of this aspect.

Other potential areas of concern include the identifying more such Pearls in

Bangladesh: A container port facility at Chittagong is coupled with extensive Naval and Commercial Access.  Bangladesh reliance on Chinese military assets like submarines via soft loans is a step in that direction. In total for over 34 projects, a sum of USD 25 Billion has been committed by China. [11] The challenge for a growing economy like Bangladesh is soft loans help in creating less stress over any commercial loans which may have stringent terms and a higher rate of interest. Smartly, China has been trying to convert such loans into commercial loans and trying to make Bangladesh default like in the case of Sri Lanka, it wishes to use the secured assets as a way of consolidating its hold once the default occurs. Dhaka has been resisting this attempt knowing well the fate of Hambantota port and China taking it fully for failing to repay the debt and thereby buying it to square that loan off from its books.

Nepal: The India-Nepal relationship has seen several ups and downs but last few years have seen possibly multiple bottoms. With the sharing of culture and majority religion same like India, the differences emanating between Kathmandu and New Delhi are very surprising. Chiefly these issues have been taken advantage by lack of communication and strategic compromises to find a middle path to solve the challenging issues. China had made several in-roads into Nepal by taking advantage of these discomforts and had fuelled up the anti-India stance even more. The last few issues of rights of Madhesi people, access to fuel & Oil and basic transport routes, the communication and internet access for local Nepalese people had only created a bigger divide which China took full advantage by providing quick telecommunication and broadband coverage, maintaining neutral stance for ethnic group’s rights and even trying to open a new path for transport via Friendship Highway. This coupled with quick rehabilitation and aid when the earthquake struck Nepal helped China consolidate its position in the minds and heart of Nepalese people.

Figure 8 – Map of the Friendship Highway – Kathmandu to Lhasa [12]

With China in Nov 2017 taking the cross-border railway plan very seriously [13], this implies Nepal will rely greater on China and any adverse relationship impact is easily offset by Nepal Chinese communication and accessibility. Nepal thus gains a route via OBOR easily and looks at OBOR for its own survival and directly plays into the hands of the waiting China who will use Nepal then easily to open another front wrt India. In Nepal investment summit 2017 held in Kathmandu, India committed USD 317 million while China proposed to invest USD 8.3 billion. Such is the stark difference in the financial aid that Indian strategy in Nepal needs urgent attention and smart play to maintain some control and protect India’s interest.

Bhutan: India and Bhutan share a special relationship over decades. Here also China has attempted to try its level best to meddle in some manner. With the redrafted 2007 India-Bhutan friendship treaty, Bhutan has slowly got the right to follow an independent foreign policy. China has tried to showcase its economic muscle here also with an open carrot of a huge economic package in case Bhutan agrees to settle all disputes bilaterally with China and not involve India with whom Bhutan is committed via Friendship treaty. The recent Doklam crisis was a tussle due to these overtures only with China-Bhutan border disputes in 3 different pockets out of which Doklam is strategically most important from India’s perspective. China has offered to relinquish its claim over two pockets in northern Bhutan in exchange for the Doklam pocket in the western Bhutan, where Indian and Chinese armies were engaged in eyeball encounter. India is the security provider for Bhutan had to step in to safeguard both Bhutan’s sovereignty and India’s security. The flared up issue had been solved by the peaceful climb down from both China and India but this dispute, in reality, is far from being solved. This will be a potential point of crisis over time and will need adequate attention from India’s perspective.

Myanmar: India-Myanmar relationship has been healthy for a long time but the government has always been closer to China than India. In spite of turning democratic, the elections have not been fair and elected candidates always are by the support of China overtly or covertly. Primarily a commodity resource-rich country, China has invested huge sums in Myanmar in infrastructure and mining in last 3 decades. One of the controversial projects is the port development of Kyauk Pyu port in Bay of Bengal with an estimated Chinese investment of USD 7.3 billion. With China having, by all means, a controlling stake of over 75%, this is a very big threat to India. With Chinese arms and military assets, Myanmar is dependent completely on China for its survival. This port will see subsequently berthing of Chinese nuclear submarines and with electronic intelligence gathering facilities on islands in the Bay of Bengal and near the Strait of Malacca, this makes it a grave risk for India.

Sri Lanka: The island nation had been in a stable relationship with India until the IPKF movement and subsequent Tamil Eelam issues which ate up almost decades of time and gave an opportunity for outside nations to use Sri Lanka as a political tool to counter India. Sri Lanka owes almost USD 8 bn to China and that is estimated to be approximately 12%+ of its overall debt. These loans are commercial in nature and hence attract a significant rate of interest. These loan based projects and the port opened for commercial purpose 7 years ago had generated limited revenues and hence Sri Lanka has struggled to repay its due. In 2016, Sri made a deal to sell an 80 percent stake in the port to the state-controlled China Merchants Port Holdings. With vociferous protests from all sides, in July 2017, the deal was amended to give Chinese company 70 percent stake in a joint venture with Sri Lanka Ports Authority owned by Sri Lankan government.

Figure 9 – Hambantota location on a map

This December Sri Lanka has formally handed over its southern port of Hambantota to China on a 99-year lease, which government critics have denounced as an erosion of the country’s sovereignty. [14] The Sri Lankan government has given assurances that the port will not be used for military ends. Despite Sri Lankan assurances, Indian observers express concerns that Beijing could operationalize Hambantota as a resupply node for the People’s Liberation Army-Navy in the future. [15]

Maldives: India-Maldives shared a healthy relationship for a good amount of time till there was a change in regime which is very much pro-China. China via way of economic subsidies for tourism market has controlled the local government’s major source of revenue. With the cancellation of GMR building the infrastructure project and giving it out finally to a Chinese company, the shift was more or less made public. Last year, China acquired an uninhabited island near Maldives capital Male on a 50-year-lease at the cost of USD 4 million. Some reports claimed that Chinese will build a military infrastructure there and an air force base will be built up. Airstrips under construction are now seen in satellite images.

Figure 10a – Road bridge, 2nd runway and reclamation

Figure 10b – New runway under works and reclamation [16]

In addition to all this Beijing has made important inroads in the Maldives, which concluded a free trade agreement with Beijing at the end of November, last month.

With a military base in Djibouti, troops stationed in CPEC, Maldives airstrip opens up another area of concern for India.

Some smaller notable mentions

Cambodia: China signed a military agreement in November 2003 to provide training and equipment. China has funded close to USD 2Bn since then with loans for Cambodia and about 70 % of roads and bridges are built with these funds only. [17]

South China Sea:  China has built up considerable infrastructure in man-made islands. In 2017, China built underground storage areas, administrative structures and “large radar and sensor arrays, according to the Washington-based research group named Asia Maritime Transparency Institute of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The construction covered about 290,000 square meters “of new real estate.” Beijing built most actively at Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratlys including work to finish tunnels that are likely for ammunition storage. High-frequency radar gear also appeared on the reef, China has enough installations to land fighter jets, refuel, rearm and let crews rest, according to Collin Koh, maritime security research fellow at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. [18]

Thailand: Thailand is deeply dependent on Chinese capital for its economic growth. recently it has also purchased 3 Chinese submarines for almost USD 1.2 Bn as well deepening its military times. High-speed railways, power projects, Eastern Economic Corridor and OBOR are the main themes of the present-day government of Thailand and China. [19]

As seen the geopolitical concerns are at multiple levels with many entities. In the next chapters, we further analyse and present what could be inferred and we can explore the possible solutions to this issue.

Chapter 4

A maritime perspective to this chakravyuh

From a baseline perspective, we have seen the following based on previous chapters

  1. Enhanced Economic outreaches
  2. Focus on geopolitical trade
  3. Securing Energy routes at any cost for all situations
  4. Focussed on maritime aspect and SLOCs
  5. Overt usage of economic-political willpower
  6. Covert usage of economic-political-military aspects of decision making

It is clear that the economic prosperity scope is dependent on maritime nature of the whole mix of sea lanes of communication, strategic shipping/merchant lanes, secured trade routes to access newer markets at reduced logistical costs and protecting all via a dominant military back up to support its security.

It is pertinent to note that all this is primarily showcasing an increased need and thrust in maritime power projection and usage of naval assets to ensure safety, security, the order of sea lanes and force towards the dominance of power projection. A simple breakdown from different perspectives makes it easier to understand the interdependency

  1. Political and Diplomacy Perspectives
    • Building deeper relationship with nations in Asia and Africa
    • Recognising different nations for direct and indirect cohesion
    • Greater recognition in global arena
    • Recognition as a powerful nation in a multipolar world
    • Challenge the old leadership and dominance of World powers
  2. Economic Perspectives
    • Infrastructure Buildup in the trade route in supporting nations
    • Investment in overt and covert form to have firm control
    • Identifying strategically good locations where income generation is limited but the project is made to show a huge cash flow generation in future for annexing.
    • Initiate the relationship with soft loans and changing the debt to commercial rate of interests
    • Commanding a greater sum of profit.
    • Management control over the whole invested and linking complex
    • Focussing on Energy Security aspect
    • Focus on providing engineering and technology solutions for basic modes of transport infrastructure as a whole.
    • Using technology to infiltrate into the lives of common citizens and creating a dependency
    • The whole economy of the supporting nation indirectly depends on mainland China’s economic policies and overtures.
    • Controlling commodity at resource excavation/mining to transport to storage aspects.
  3. Military Perspectives
    • Creation of military outposts across the IOR
    • Upgrading the intelligence gathering perspectives with reliance on Electronic, communication, satellite imagery-based intelligence and use of Space-based assets
    • Creation of berthing places for surface ships and pens for docking submarines without raising any suspicion
    • Stocking of supply, replenishments and weapon based assets
    • Military personnel training and rotation on different platforms for operational deployment
    • Neutralise any threat to China and its investment places
    • Linking up Military sales to local Chinese Military Industrial Complex via ways of soft loans, training and even support services creation
    • Establishment of local repair depots
    • Creation of Satellite Tracking and Imaging centre
    • Establishment of VLF Submarine communication setups
    • Access to Beidou GPS Systems
    • Establishing dual use communication medium, ground-based and space-based assets.
  4. Cultural  Perspectives
    • Promoting Chinese culture and Chinese way of life
    • Pushing significant expatriates into supporting nations in order to create a local population over time which is more China favouring and leaning in ideologies.
    • Soft power creation and projection
    • Enhancing Tourism connections
    • Increasing the citizen to citizen contact and exchange program
    • Enhancing education exchange program and scholarships to boost image among new generations
    • Taking over or buying controlling stakes or covertly manipulating local media and newspapers to follow mainland China news media viewpoints, in turn, making mainland China media a globally acceptable name.
    • Using ancient Chinese medicines and treatments for humanitarian assistance
    • Opening up Confucius institute in different nations. These institutes are affiliated with Ministry of Education
    • Use sports, movies, art, music, films to push Chinese perspectives.

The above perspectives provide a deep insight to understand the nuances of China’s actionable. If we consider now string of pearls and China’s possible encirclement of India, the whole picture looks like this below

Figure 11 – The possible ships and submarine berthing places in China’s string of Pearls

It is important to understand that China in its quest for the string of Pearls had basically ensured that South China Sea stance of hers is shown as a template of power projection and determination.

In doing so, it has rubbed Vietnam hard and forced Vietnam to spend a considerable amount in Military wares and assets to safeguard its security.

Philippines which has been a pro-USA country and USA protection owing to a weak Navy succumbed to a plethora of economic deals signed over last 12 months. China won her by the means of economic deals softening her strict resistance to the SCS dispute and diluting the whole root cause further to her own benefit.

Malaysia is another commodity-based economy which has been struggling for some time. In Spite of assets which it has, most are aged and needs replacements. To safeguard its own strategic needs, Malaysia will be forced to spend money to buy out new military wares.

Taiwan is facing an impending situation of almost many missiles targeting Taiwan and simulations related to its annexation. It plans to increase investments in military wares and assets as well to safeguard its interests. Being a close ally of USA, the China vs USA confrontation is a starked reality

So all the parties in the SCS dispute had been dealt with in some ways and resultant action only showcases that taking on China alone may not be the best course of action overtly or covertly. If we look at figure 11, simple facts come to light based on previous chapters. To make things, even more, clearly let us look at another pictorial [20].

Figure 12 Comparison of ports in IOR

Given above is the list of all ports which are shown on the map and also the disputes which India has with Chi-Pak axis

If we draw a parallel between the east side of the string of pearls resolution or SCS resolution within the future west side or IOR region outcome, few points become very clear.

  1. China is creating a dual-use civilian infrastructure of commercial nature which can be used for the military purpose as well.
  2. Wrt to an aggressive stance in SCS, the same aggression should be applicable when the right amount of manpower and assets under deployment and rotation are available.
  3. The neighbouring countries especially India should be very cautious. As the time goes by, Threat index will see a marked upswing and there will be potential eye to eye confrontation in multiple exchange points
  4. The strategy in IOR is clearly following
    • Build-up
    • Consolidate access points
    • Create a direct competition with India
    • Use A2/AD or Anti Access /Area Denial in order to isolate India and ensure no external help can reach India
    • Propping up Pakistan based proxies covertly and overtly using its forces to keep India engaged all the time
    • Another distracting scenario will be created to ensure the friendly country to many of these nations and IORs greatest security provider – the USA is kept occupied and its supply line always stretched.
    • With USA engaged stance, its geographical concentration is weakened allowing scattering of assets favourable to China limited naval presence.
    • Over time with such bases and full staff/support/ assets, China will be in a position to launch multiple front attacks simultaneously thereby defeating potential adversaries like India within the conventional realm easily.

In the end, the military perspective is to create an uncertainty and uneasiness aspect to keep India thinking forever. With propping up multiple issues in these Strings, India remains engaged and China will keep on weaving a net to tighten our geopolitical manoeuvres further.

Chapter 5

Remedial Measures to break the Chakravyuh

The remedial measures to break the chakravyuh is basically two prong.

  1. Economic and diplomatic Initiatives
  2. Security Initiatives

Economic and Diplomatic initiatives

There have been 3 major points under this initiative [21]

  • India has long been the dominant power in South Asia
  • As Beijing invests millions in the region, New Delhi is looking to defend its sphere of influence
  • India must play to its strengths instead of attempting to match Chinese capital

It is important to understand that China has an economic might, a banking industry to back its strategically important projects and financial capital for high-risk projects. To offset this, following solutions may be explored

  1. Indian agrarian economy and food security can aspects can be replicated to ensure adequate self-sufficiency can be created or a group can be created to look after that for all members. Monsoon plays a pivotal role as well and hence an integrated weather forecast and management will greatly aid all supporting nations.
  2. From manufacturing aspects, India should look at creating a major global manufacturing hub in India and allow a part of the supply chain of less complex work involving the low end of technology matrix but highly manpower intensive to be in the supporting nation. In a way instead of a single industrial complex, India should try to create a hub in the homeland and spoke based industrial reach in multiple support nations. With the dependency of trade and manpower being employed, this creates a much better scope of cooperation without straining Indian monetary aspect too much.
  3. This can be further enhanced by a collective nation signing a free trade agreement among themselves which will help boost economic cooperation further.
  4. To boost connecting the east to west corridors, there should be an accelerated creation of a tax-free zone in A&N islands. The aim is to create a gateway region replicating Mauritius – gateway to Africa, Singapore – gateway to Southeast Asia, Dubai – gateway to ME perspective. A&N can become the gateway to India and its associated nation group thereby making it a very attractive economic proposition. A Free Trade Zone and Free Economic Zone with full exemptions/concessions to the investor would attract a large amount of foreign capital flow, boost exports and in turn boost precious foreign exchange improving our overall financial health further. This coupled with skilled job creation will help us use our young population adequately.
  5. Opening up interbank cooperation with the extent of allowing Domestic Systemically Important Banks (D-SIB) to open up branches with full services in support nations. Now the idea is to allow support nation credit requirements to be availed via these D-SIBs. Since the industry may be a spoke to Indian hub, access to credit should not be a big issue with recourse via payments routed through these D-SIBs. On top, such industries in foreign support nations should be given either a priority status or an interest subvention scheme in order to facilitate further growth in aiding many industries. Indian Rupee acceptance and Indian Rupee structured loans will make this proposition even more attractive. Indian Rupee may be identified as a common currency yet keep domestic currencies as well. This will free the forex fluctuation effects and help the economies of all further.
  6. India should champion the cause of renewable energy and should use Solar Energy and low-cost solar cells as an effective tool to help supporting nations ease through the energy crisis. India’s brainchild International Solar Alliance should be used to good effect to push this noble cause. Striving for a greener planet will help create a better image of responsible India and allowing support nation to accessing affordable Solar tech will enhance India’s economic and technological might
  7. In terms of the population, India and the supporting group in IOR will house a huge number of population of different age groups. The standard of living will be a big challenge and basic amenities, nutrition and sanitation should be the key challenge. Right to education and responsibility to provide a quality life and alleviate poverty will be welcome steps in that direction.
  8. India should also look at allowing companies in the telecom industry to aid in providing low-cost communication access and broadband. In this Reliance-Jio with its Voice over LTE technology will be in the forefront by establishing network infrastructure and providing like India ultra cheap call rates and data packs.
  9. India should also harvest its Medical tourism industry by tying up medical aid and ease in visa procedures. The supporting nations may be given Visa on Arrival and also expedited clearance for medical reasons to support this further up.Subsidised Airfares to and fro can also be envisioned for patient and dependent. The D-SIBs can be further supported by Medical insurers which can cover all such potential people and help them settle the medical bills via such Insurances. An AIIMS institute and education college can also be opened up in each supporting nation with full capex and opex cost to be borne by India. The training imparted can help build a generation of future medical professionals in this field.
  10. Collaboration and the opening of quality institutes like IIT, IIM and IISc in supporting nations in order to impart quality education. Such campuses will help in strengthening the education system overall of the whole region overall and will provide similar skill sets to youth for working in industries. This will further cause the soft power increase for India
  11. Usage of Culture, sports, movies, film and music to create a bonhomie and united aspect of all countries together. These are important mediums to share and impart information to all.
  12. Creation of a one media entity for print, audio and video media for all type of news dissemination. Like vernacular editions, such a media house will help reach every corner of the supporting nation and let news reach and shared among all.
  13. A common APP tool for all aspects of payments to all important notifications. Aadhar and biometric database creation can be done for all support countries to allow easier access and transaction of various services.  This coupled with APP can help in creating a digital economy in a big way

Security Initiatives

  1. India must spend on a rapid modernisation plan with the focus on two and half front war aspect. This will mean India need a considerable investment. The extra half front is being kept for emergency purposes when supporting nations may be needing our help or one of the nations can be entangled in Chi-Pak mix and open a new front against India as well. The modernisation must be tangible in the timeframe, use a mix of indigenous public and private sector and also suitably make maximum assets under a make in India campaign. Since the war theatres are multi-dimensional, the formation of a joint command with the appointment of Chief of Defence services and smooth transition into a network-centric battlefield is essential. India should also formally recognise and appoint important resources in Cyberwarfare and invest heavily to protect its military installations and the dual-use ones as well.
  2. India must showcase its power by covertly planning and disposing of the present Maldives government. maldives is an important piece of this jigsaw puzzle and we must act now in order to salvage what is an extremely precarious situation. We can take the aid of multiple world power like the backing of USA and usage of the agency like CIA for this joint ops as well.
  3. India should try and get closer to ME countries like Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar etc. In these places, we should try to have a strong relationship to the extent of covertly and overtly supporting a more favourable regime to India.This is important from the perspective of Energy like OIL and sovereign fund investments to aid our development. In return, we can look at installing satellite tracking and receiver station, a specific ME satellite and letting them access GAGAN GPS system
  4. Build a full-fledged Naval (with air wing) and Army base (Converting Southern Command into an Amphibious command) in Seychelles for neutralising Djibouti completely. Important to have a space-based asset constellation overlooking it 24×7. Need also to deploy unmanned maritime patrol aircrafts. In future, if we have a considerable number of aircraft carriers (as a result of point 1), we should look at permanently placing a CBG base in Seychelles.
  5. Signing a contract with France, to allow Indian ships to deploy in Reunion Island. This will create a further a further base zone till Seychelles based comes online. By putting considerable security apparatus there and letting France in turn access to Seychelles base, we create a better power projection and security enhancer for the region.
  6. Raising a Brahmos AShM regiment and placing in A&N in order to secure the whole region completely. The militarization of A&N command should be further augmented with specific amphibious assets along with naval and Airpower placement. Assets like LHDs, NMRH helicopters, ASW ships, ISR assets need permanent housing and deployment to ensure the entry to IOR is properly kept in check all the time 24×7.
  7. Owing to a small but significant stake in Hambantota port (where Sri Lanka government ahs 30%) and ensuring all decision making is transparent. By appointing our own person there for the stake and our eyes on the ground, we can ensure there is no chance of any security lapse and full compliance of that project is for civilian purposes only.
  8. Upgrading Indian Oman relationship from naval berthing rights and anti-piracy operations to full scope of military deployment. With the need of border fencing from Yemen side and listening post already there, this relationship upgrade will help us deploy troops more easily. Such a position will help us checkmate Gwadar and CPEC permanently.
  9. Concretising India Singapore relationship into a military pact. As of now its a logistic sharing pact signed last month under India-Singapore Bilateral Agreement for Navy Cooperation. We have also the Air Force Bilateral Agreement in place from 2007 and renewed on the sidelines of the 11th Singapore-India Defense Policy Dialogue in January this year, while the Army Bilateral Agreement was also already in place in 2008 and is expected to be renewed next year. Indian Navy’s greater access to Changi Naval base and possible deployment of assets would greatly enhance our security perspective. The placement of the Singapore and proximity to SCS implies the Chinese assets has to pass this point which enables us also to counteract and protect our interests.
  10. Over time we should explore on Lostical sharing agreement followed by a military pact and a base access in Vietnam, Philippines, South Korea and Japan. Each of these points represents a further strengthening and encirclement of India’s interest in protecting its shipping and trade lines.

Conclusion

With this, it should be also noted that many of the solutions are not immediate in nature and may require at least 2-3 decades to fructify. what must be noted that this Chakravyuh can be broken with a mix of actionable on India’s part. What is paramountly needed is the resolute political decision-making ability at highest levels to change the status quo and often found slow reactive stance which has plagued us for multiple decades.

The whole analysis had shown how China has employed the economic might coupled with dual-use infra creation for military aspects and how it has gone ahead to create the string of pearls. It was explained from an Indian maritime perspective as well followed by possible recommended solutions. The recommended solutions instead of sticking to either economic-diplomatic actionable or only security initiatives, rather a 360-degree view was attempted to showcase how both are also interdependent.

As seen over the course of this paper, the analysis had thrown light to important geopolitical developments and had raised two important aspects. First is the identification of the Chakravyuh, which will need much more than mere words and saying that India will protect its geopolitical interests. The identification must be backed by solutions which are reviewed, amended based on the feedback of time, resource and situation to maintain relevance.

India can surely break this chakravyuh and take China over its own game. At far less investment of time, money and resources. The relevant question next is when will India begin? To this small baby steps have been taken. It’s now time to act and take giant strides to protect all our geopolitical, economic, diplomatic and military interests

 

References 

[1] –People’s Liberation Army Navy – WikipediaPeople’s Liberation Army Navy – Wikipedia

[2] Where Africa fits into China’s massive Belt and Road Initiative, http://theconversation.com/where-africa-fits-into-chinas-massive-belt-and-road-initiative-78016

[3] China Britain Business Council,   http://www.cbbc.org/cbbc/media/cbbc_media/One-Belt-One-Road-main-body.pdf

[4] Prosperity will come down $900bn silk road, says Xi , Prosperity will come down $900bn silk road, says Xi

[5] String of Pearls, String of Pearls (Indian Ocean) – Wikipedia

[6] China builds up strategic sea lanes, China builds up strategic sea lanes

[7] String of Pearls: Meeting the challenge of china’s rising power across the Asian littoral, Christopher J. Pehrson, http://ssi.armywarcollege.edu/pdffiles/pub721.pdf

[8] Map showing the extent of Somali pirate attacks on shipping vessels between 2005 and 2010, File:Somalian Piracy Threat Map 2010.png – Wikimedia Commons

[9] Components of National Security and Synergising Them for Envisaged Security Threats in 2025, National Security Paper 2011, USI of India | An article by USI

[10] China–Pakistan Economic Corridor, China–Pakistan Economic Corridor – Wikipedia

[11] Beyond Doklam: How China is winning over India’s neighbours with money, arms, Beyond Doklam: How China is winning over Indias neighbours with money, arms

[12] 8 DAYS TIBET TOUR – KATHMANDU TO LHASA OVERLAND, http://www.joaoleitao.com/motivation/8-days-kathmandu-lhasa/

[13] China has begun feasibility study on cross-border rail line with Nepal: Envoy , https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/china/china-has-begun-feasibility-study-on-cross-border-rail-line-with-nepal-envoy/articleshow/61701761.cms

[14] China signs 99-year lease on Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port, https://www.ft.com/content/e150ef0c-de37-11e7-a8a4-0a1e63a52f9c

[15] Sri Lanka Formally Hands Over Hambantota Port to Chinese Firms on 99-Year Lease, https://thediplomat.com/2017/12/sri-lanka-formally-hands-over-hambantota-port-to-chinese-firms-on-99-year-lease/

[16] REVEALED: The ‘Secret’ Chinese Airstrip Emerging In Maldives, https://www.livefistdefence.com/2017/04/14578.html

[17] China Funded 70% of Cambodian Roads, Bridges: Minister, https://www.cambodiadaily.com/news/china-funded-70-of-cambodian-roads-bridges-minister-132826/

[18]Study: China to Boost Military Muscle at Sea to Deter Foreign Powers, https://www.voanews.com/a/study-china-boost-military-muscle-sea-deter-foreign-pwoers/4171738.html

[19] THAILAND CHASES CHINESE MONEY, BUT AT WHAT COST?http://www.scmp.com/week-asia/society/article/2102934/thailand-chases-chinese-money-what-cost

[20] Edgar Fabiano, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Collardeperlaschino.png

[21] China is pumping money into countries around India — but there are ways New Delhi can hit back, https://www.cnbc.com/2017/10/05/china-is-pumping-money-into-countries-around-india–but-there-are-ways-new-delhi-can-hit-back.html

[22] Why the New India-Singapore Naval Pact Matters, https://thediplomat.com/2017/11/why-the-new-india-singapore-naval-pact-matters/

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China’s encirclement of India – How can India fight this chakravyuh?