According to the String of Pearl’s theory, China is constructing ports in the Indian Ocean region and protecting maritime trade routes; however, India propagates that China is also developing naval bases there, which is posing a danger to international peace. India has frequently deemed String of Pearls a threat and launched her plan known as Necklace of Diamonds, despite China’s repeated claims that it does not intend to typically develop a naval setup in any nation. To what extent, though, are Indian claims accurate?
A Chinese initiative to link her economic and military endeavors in the Indian Ocean region is known as the “String of Pearls.” China’s economy is prospering and capturing a sizable portion of the global market. However, this peaceful growth of China is not thought to be very amiable in India or other nations around the globe. China has a significant presence in several ports along the Indian Ocean Region, including Gawadar (Pakistan), Hambantota (Sri Lanka), and other ports that are situated at or close to crucial shipping lanes and choke points like the Strait of Hormuz, the Strait of Malacca and Horn Of Africa, etc. China is actively participating in constructing new ports and expanding existing ports in the Indian Ocean region.
China does not intend to build naval or military installations abroad. Apart from participating in anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and maintaining a base in Djibouti, Chinese military personnel has never been involved in any engagement with any other state. Following PLAN’s involvement in the anti-piracy mission, several vociferous voices in China called for the establishment of naval bases in the Indian Ocean but were rebuffed. Recently, there have been discussions regarding China building a naval and aviation facility in the area at Jiwani, which is close to Gawadar. The Chinese administration denied any allegations regarding the base’s building. At the time, the Chinese foreign minister refuted the charge, saying, “I am not aware of what you mentioned.” Professor Lin Minwang of Fudan University claims that while China and Pakistan are both capable of creating a combined base, doing so is not essential.
With just two warships and a tiny contingent of soldiers, China has maintained a minor presence in the Indian Ocean. The main goal of its presence is to protect Chinese trade against unwelcome challenges. These ships have been crucial in aiding the humanitarian crises in Africa as well as securing Chinese economic lines. Through the Gulf of Aden, China rescued about 600 Chinese people and 225 other foreign nationals who were trapped in Yemen among the fighting. Through frigates, evacuees were transported to the Djibouti base. According to the Chinese government, the evacuation of foreign residents during combat by the People’s Liberation Army Navy was a first in Chinese history. Even though the People’s Liberation Army is equipped to station up to ten thousand soldiers in the Indian Ocean region, it has only kept a small contingent of troops there, demonstrating China’s preference for peaceful economic development.
Hambantota Port in Sri Lanka is another Pearl in this thread. It was constructed in 2010 and is Sri Lanka’s second-largest port after Colombo port. CM Port, a Hong Kong-based Red Chip firm, acquired 70% ownership in the port on a 99-year lease in 2017. Although the majority of the area is leased and under the management of a Chinese business, Sri Lanka is responsible for its security, and the Chinese navy has no presence there and has no plans to do so in the near future. Many rumors about the port being a Chinese naval base surfaced after CM Ports acquired shares in it, however, the Sri Lankan government disputed these claims, describing the port as a joint enterprise between CMP and Sri Lanka. There is no defense pact between the two nations that would permit China to turn Hambantota port into a military outpost. This evidence supports the claim that China is not attempting to build a naval station in Sri Lanka and does not harbor any hostile intentions toward the Indian Ocean.
China’s economy is expanding quickly. Since it meets the majority of China’s demands, the Chinese network of ports in the Indian Ocean region acts as a stimulant for the country’s economic growth. China’s foreign policy professes its principles of peaceful coexistence including respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, and that is exactly why China is not in any way aiming to strengthen military capabilities in the Indian Ocean Region. Instead, China is trying to increase its economic influence there. Accordingly, it can be claimed that the PLAN’s base in Djibouti, the port of Gawadar in Pakistan, and the port of Hambantota in Sri Lanka along with several other projects, were all constructed to strengthen China’s economic position rather than to build up its military in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) against India.
About Author: Muhammad Abdullah is a student of Peace and Conflict Studies at National Defence University, Islamabad, Pakistan. He has a keen interest in the South China Sea, Sino-Indian relations, and Korean Penisula. He can be reached at email@example.com.