In keeping with its convention of having utter disregard for either justice or sovereignty of others, China has utilised its People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to do both: quell domestic dissent like Tiananmen Square massacre and set up bases in foreign countries whether through agreement or coercion.
- Deepanshu Aggarwal
(Image source: www.thenarrativeworld.in)
It is the 31st anniversary week of the Tiananmen Square massacre that took place in China and we are sharing a 10 days article series focusing on ten different topics (such as One Belt One Road Initiative, Strict media control, China’s border disputes etc.) to showcase how the Tiananmen Square massacre is not one isolated incident but the dragon’s inherent ideology in itself.
This, a 4th day piece, divided into three-articles, will talk about China’s military expansionary plans under the garb of its much touted and advertised Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). This article, the first, talks about China’s military expansionism in the African nation of Djibouti and Asian nations of Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Myanmar.
Militaries across the countries in the world are tasked with a very crucial task of securing their respective countries’ international borders and territorial integrity. They guard the national frontiers day and night for the sole purpose of protecting the citizens of a country.Thus, wouldn’t it be strange and an injustice if a country begins to use its military in order to quell domestic dissent?
Would it not be equally appalling if a country coerces other countries (whether through debt-diplomacy or in the name of ‘protecting’ infrastructural assets) into allowing its military to set its foot in those countries? In keeping with its ‘convention’ of having utter disregard for either justice or others’ sovereignty, China has utilised its People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to do both : quell domestic dissent (Tiananmen Square massacre) and set up bases in foreign countries whether through agreement or coercion.
Thus, the PLA is anything but ‘liberating’. Let’s consider the examples of Djibouti, an east African nation and Asian nations such as Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Myanmar.
Djibouti is an East African nation that lies at the strategic juncture of the Indian Ocean, Red Sea and Gulf of Aden and controls the waters that lead to the famous and important sea route of the Suez Canal. Djibouti, exploiting its strategic location, as Bertil Lintner mentions in his book ‘The Costliest Pearl’ “..leases out its territory to foreign countries that want to set up military bases.”
He also writes that following the US, France, Japan and a few other countries, China opened its military base therein in August 2017. The base was leased by Djibouti at a cost of $20 million a year and can house 10,000 troops. Though China has stated the base’s objective as protecting the sea traffic from ‘pirates’ in the region, it is widely considered a front for the country to grow its offshore military strength in its bid to be a superpower.
The Chinese stated, as Bertil mentions “that the facility had nothing to do with military expansion and that it will be no more than a supply centre for their peacekeeping and humanitarian missions in the continent. But to many others, the best signifies China’s growing role in Africa and Beijing’s determination to secure its expanding interests in the Indian Ocean region.”
Thus, combating piracy or aiding humanitarian activities is a charade beyond which lies the real motive of China – control the strategic ship routes in its bid to be a military and economic superpower. China, as part of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) under its flagship Belt and Road Initiative, is developing the port of Gwadar in Pakistan. Gwadar lies at the strategic juncture of Arabian Sea, Gulf of Oman and Strait of Hormuz. The port helps the Chinese landlocked province of Xinjiang connect to the Indian Ocean through a network of railway lines, roads etc.
Considering Gwadar’s strategic location and provision of access to the Indian Ocean to an otherwise largely landlocked China has propelled the dragon to call its alliance with Pakistan an important one. The alliance has important economic underpinnings for both the countries.
But it has military underpinnings too! As Bertil writes in his book “The alliance also includes military corporation ; the two countries have agreed to ‘safeguard the security of China Pakistan Economic Corridor’. But whether that extends to letting China set up permanent base in Pakistan remains to be seen. Bill Gertz, writing for The Washington Times, seems to think so.
He says there are indications the Chinese have visited an area east of Gwadar on the Sonmiani Bay, a region known for its advanced computer centres, and ‘there are signs the Chinese are ready to build another boat facility at that location.’
Whether the base is going to be there or at Gwadar is not clear but ‘Chinese construction of the military activities in the port apper similar to what China did in Djibouti.’ If correct, China would soon have two military bases from which they could monitor and protect vital oil shipping routes from the Middle East.
”Imagine the plight of Indian security officials over India’s first Prime Minister after independence in 1947 – Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru not accepting the Sultan of Muscat and Oman’s offer of offering the port of Gwadar to India in the 1950s, upon which Pakistan bought it for $3 million in 1958. (Gwadar was given to the Sultan of Muscat in 1783 by Baluchi ruler Khan of Khalat) (Source : The Costliest Pearl book, by Bertil Lintner) Various security and geo-strategic analysts predict similar a experience for Myanmar, who like Sri Lanka, is saddled with Chinese debt. Myanmar could soon experience its ‘Hambantota’ moment.
Thus, China’s Belt and Road Initiative is nothing but a Chinese belt of debt and military expansion wrapped around its participating Asiatic neighbours and African/European countries along with a road that, China thinks, will lead to the dragon’s domination over the world.
Next, in this 4th day series, we will discuss, through the second article in the series, the Chinese military plans in the Indian Oceanic islands of Maldives, Mauritius and Seychelles.
(The writer is a commerce graduate (2017) from Shri Ram College of Commerce. The article was first published on www.thenarrativeworld.in to whom it belongs. Republished with permission)