This video shows you that China’s Play For Military Bases In The Eastern Indian Ocean.
China is moving to establish a network of naval and air bases in the Indian Ocean to support its growing strategic imperatives in the region. This likely includes plans to build bases in the eastern Indian Ocean, in waters much closer to Australia. Australia cannot afford to play onlooker to these developments.
In July 2017, China opened its first overseas military base in Djibouti, and Beijing is currently in negotiations with Pakistan to establish an additional base at or near Gwadar on the Arabian Sea.
But it will not be enough for China to only have capabilities in the north-west Indian Ocean, far from Australia. China’s strategic imperatives, and the Indian Ocean’s distance from Chinese territory, mean that Beijing will likely see a need to develop a network of military facilities of various types across the ocean, including in its central/eastern zone.
These bases will be required if China wants to be able to protect the entire length of its east–west sea lines across the Indian Ocean. Just as importantly, Beijing has growing political imperatives to protect the large number of Chinese nationals and assets across the region.
Chinese naval presence in the Indian Ocean is forecast to grow from the current 4–5 vessels to around 20 or more surface vessels and submarines in coming years. This will require a network of naval logistics facilities, including submarine support facilities, particularly if China is to pursue a serious sea denial or sea control strategy across the northern Indian Ocean.
It is not only about naval bases. China will also require air bases in at least three quadrants of the Indian Ocean (north-west, north-east, and south-west) to provide adequate air cover for its Indian Ocean fleet. The People’s Liberation Army Air Force will not be able to provide adequate coverage with long-range maritime surveillance aircraft (let alone short-range strike aircraft), based in southern/western China. The deployment of aircraft carriers to the Indian Ocean or the use of air tankers based in China are unlikely to be enough to bridge the gap.
China’s eastern Indian Ocean gambit has been playing out for a while, with Beijing preparing the ground in the Maldives, Sri Lanka, and/or Myanmar. This is a percentages game. China’s ability to achieve its goals is far from assured, and there will probably be push back, to different degrees, from potential host governments as well as from others.
The jostling for influence in those countries between China and India is already highly reminiscent of US–Soviet competition for influence during the Cold War, and will likely grow in the future.
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