From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : China Indian Ocean Region Forum, USAID
Mains level : Read the attached story
China’s top development aid agency convened the first “China-Indian Ocean Region Forum” in the southwestern Chinese city of Kunming.
What is the China Indian Ocean Region Forum?
- It is organised by the China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA).
- It is the latest Chinese initiative focusing on the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
- It underlines Beijing’s growing strategic interests in a region where its economic footprint has been deepening.
What is it about?
- The CIDCA is China’s new development aid agency similar to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
- It aims to-
- Strengthen policy coordination,
- Deepen development cooperation,
- Increase resilience to shocks and disasters, and
- Enhance relevant countries’ capacity to obtain economic benefits through use of marine resources such as fisheries, renewable energy, tourism, and shipping in a sustainable way
Which countries have backed the forum?
- The organisers have said the forum was attended by high-level representatives and senior officials from 19 countries.
- But at least two of those countries, Australia and Maldives, subsequently released statements rebutting the claim, emphasising that they did not participate officially.
Why such a move by China?
China’s ambitions in the Indian Ocean have been motivated by three factors-
- Gaining significance of Indo-Pacific: As the new world order unveils around the Indo-Pacific, Beijing aims to challenge other major powers, such as India, and establish its hegemony.
- Domestic energy security: Beijing needs the Indian Ocean to ensure its energy security and continue fuelling its growth, which defines its foreign policy and international leverage.
- Hegemony establishment: Establishing new and alternative institutions with IOR countries helps China display its presence and influence from the China Sea to the Indian Ocean, reflecting its status as a significant power.
How is China perceiving its interests?
- Political corruption: Beijing has cultivated close and personal relationships with political elites and parties of IOR countries, usually through corruption, party funding, and by turning a blind eye to their human rights abuses and democratic infirmities.
- Fractionalization: Friendship with different political parties in Pakistan; bonhomie with the Rajapaksa clan in Sri Lanka, and close relations with Maldives’ Abdulla Yameen are some examples of this widespread phenomenon.
- Elite capture: In addition, China has often used the elite capture tactic to ensure a pro-China policy and bag geo-economically and strategically significant projects. This includes concessions on Pakistan’s Gwadar Port and Sri Lanka’s Colombo Port City project.
Where does India stand?
- India was the lone absentee in the forum ignoring the invitation.
- China has exposed its intention with the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) countries.
- New Delhi has viewed China’s recent moves in the region warily, including the recent visit of a Chinese military tracking vessel, the Yuan Wang 5, to Sri Lanka.
- Moreover, India sees the Indian-Ocean Rim Association (IORA) as an already established platform for the region.
China’s plans for the IOR
- The forum has underlined China’s stepped-up interest in the IOR, where it is already a major trading partner for most countries and where sea routes lie vital to China’s economic interests.
- The CIDCA forum is the latest initiative to reflect Beijing’s view that it has a clear stake in the region, and that more such initiatives are likely.
Has China out-powered India in the IOR with this move?
- The Chinese initiative looks like a kind of delayed response.
- It can be seen only as a comparison and competitor to India’s SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region), as outlined by PM Modi in Mauritius in 2015.
- The Indian idea is implemented through the nation’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy and such other initiatives as ‘‘Project Mausam’ and ‘Integrated Coastal Surveillance System’ (now shared with Maldives).
- All of them are confined to the Indian Ocean, where India too belongs legitimately, unlike China.
- In a way, the new initiative reflects China’s unending greed.
- It also reflects China’s desire and ambition to measure up to the US in reach and outreach, and through them, geo-economics, geopolitical, and geostrategic comparability.
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