US and China’s interests in the Indian Ocean | By Kamran Hashmi


US and China’s interests in the Indian Ocean

THE world will continue to value the Indian Ocean due to the huge reservoir of oil and gas and the vulnerability of chokepoints like Babul Mandab, the Strait of Hormuz and the Strait of Malacca.

The 5th Fleet at Bahrain, permanent bases at Diego Garcia, Djibouti, and agreements for the use of base facilities by Oman, Saudi Arabia, Kenya, Seychelles and other nations all reflect the importance of the Indian Ocean in the US policy.

After the BRI/CPEC/CMEC (China Myanmar Economic Corridor), in which China plans to invest the US $1 trillion, the Indian Ocean became a top priority for China.

People believe that China’s investment will make these nations prosperous. China opens its first military base in Djibouti to guard its SLOCs (Sea Lanes of Communications).

Chinese naval ships patrol and conduct naval exercises with the Indian Ocean’s littoral nations which threatens the US and its allies.

The western and southern provinces of China will be the closest to the CPEC/CMEC and will be developed similarly to the other provinces of China.

Chinese commerce will travel faster and with greater security to its final destinations in the western and southern provinces.

CMEC can be used to circumvent the Strait of Malacca in the event of any disruption. The US is concerned about China’s modernization of its defence forces because, according to the plan, by 2050, China will have the greatest economy and a navy that can project itself over all oceans.

The US has launched several initiatives across the Indian and Pacific Oceans with the assistance of its allies to restrict and present obstacles for China and assure the failure of BRI/CPEC/CMEC.

These actions can result in the formation of alliances for trade and defence. The Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) consists of various navies and is divided into four task forces to patrol the Persian Gulf, Sea of Oman, the Arabian Sea and the Red Sea.

The US finalized agreements like the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), Communication Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) and Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) for geospatial intelligence to support India against China.

As China is its largest commercial partner and neighbour, India is hesitant to confront it. Despite pressure from the US, India refrained from sending any navy ships to the South China Sea.

AUKUS was established in 2020 because Australia was asked to purchase eight nuclear submarines from the US and UK.

Australia is a peaceful nation with friendly relations with its neighbours, but it is forced to buy nuclear submarines, presumably to exert pressure on China.

In 2021, the US and G-7 countries started Build Back Better World (B3W) as a counter to BRI and planned to invest the US $40 trillion worth of infrastructure required by developing countries by 2035.

It couldn’t have the same effect as BRI. China has welcomed this initiative and is willing to work with and invited the US to join BRI.

The USA, India, Japan and Australia make up QUAD. A worldwide order based on laws, freedom of navigation and an open trade system are the goals of the QUAD.

Additionally, it will finance the debt of Indo-Pacific nations. However, the main goal of QUAD is to restrain China’s strategic hegemony over the South China Sea, Eurasia, and the Indian Ocean.

A new bloc is known as I2U2—with “I” standing for India and Israel and “U” for the US and UAE—was created by the United States, India, Israel, and the United Arab Emirates.

The alliance will talk about, among other areas of collaboration, the world food crisis, climate change, oil production and the Yemen War.

Israel will then be able to operate its naval forces in the Indian Ocean. Israel’s presence is viewed as a step against BRI/CPEC and a check on China.

A new grouping of 13 nations, including the US, Australia, India, Japan, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Republic of Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and New Zealand, is known as the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity. 40% of the global GDP is held by these nations.

The advancement of economic development, resilience, and competitiveness among members is the goal of IPEC.

The move contradicts BRI and reduces China’s growing regional influence. There have been no consequences of IPEC to date.

All these alliances are the response to the emergence of China in the Indian & Pacific Oceans.

The US and Chinese strategies for investing in a country differ from one another. With no preferences or requirements, China is happy to cooperate with any country.

Its only priorities are trading and expanding its infrastructure. The US is more interested in imposing its agenda, toppling unfriendly regimes, reselling its aging military weapons, helping in exchange for demands and content dealing with individuals than with the government of any country. Most countries feel comfortable interacting wi.

—The writer is associated with the Indian Ocean Study Centre (IOSC) at the National Institute of Maritime Affairs. The views expressed are his own.


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