Diplomatist Magazine Diplomatist April 2018 - Page 50

PERSPECTIVE China wants to secure the key maritime locations for strategic and economic reasons. China’s defence spending has increased substantially over the last decades. political regimes, leadership crises and economic backwardness. Domestic crises and political instability in the region have also made countries in the region more vulnerable to the pressures from economically powerful nations like China. Interestingly, China does not have a background of unfriendly diplomatic relations with countries in South Asia, except India. China’s intense desire to bring about this connectivity with its neighbours in Asia and particularly South Asia got refl ected in its Belt and Road Strategy which intends to construct overland and maritime trade routes across Asian countries. The fi gures highlighting Asian connectivity were quite prominent during Xi Jinping’s visit to India in 2014. Jinping very much included Maldives and Sri Lanka in his South Asian tour and discussed various bilateral projects with these countries. China also proposed to start a project of building a China-Maldives Friendship Bridge worth $210 million, mainly funded by Beijing. Gradually, Maldives became one of the most favourite destinations for Chinese tourists in 2014. Under the grand initiative of Belt and Road, China has a clear plan of connecting to the Indian Ocean Region through Yunnan province in China and Myanmar. The official documents on Belt and Road have clearly indicated this in describing Yunnan as a radiating point connecting Asia and two oceans. The Asia here includes South Asia and Southeast Asia with the oceans being the Indian and Pacifi c Oceans. China’s strategy of making Yunnan a gateway in 2009 had a clear focus on promoting highways, railways, ports, waterways through this region and building channels of energy, gas, oil, trade and information, connecting China to the outside world. The province was envisioned as an important passageway for all these transnational networks of economic and strategic routes. The special attraction of this package deal has been the promotion of the construction of an oil and gas pipeline between China and Myanmar through Kunming. China’s preferential policies towards border trade and the construction of border development zones along the Bangladesh-China- India and Myanmar corridor shows the economic need of integrating China to markets in South Asia through Yunnan. Though China has made a huge investment in overland infrastructure projects, it has its own limitations. In this regard, China’s Maritime Silk Road Project sought to extend wider shipping networks all across Asia. China has already built port-related infrastructure projects in the countries ranging from Tanzania, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Australia and Israel. China wants to use maritime commerce and naval supremacy to spread its dominance over the world. The Chinese White Paper issued in 2015 clearly spelt out the offi cial policies of putting maritime strategic objectives over land bound transnational linkages. China wants to