|Maldives – Chinese Octopus eyes nest
China may have been referred to as Dragon in the past but in yin and yang terminology the dragon is yang that complements yinfenghuang (Chinese phoenix). Chinese emperors used dragons as royal symbols albeit some depictions of the Chinese dragon are of a snake-like creature with four legs. But now with China focusing more on the Indo-Pacific Ocean, the erstwhile snake-like creature is rapidly transforming into a vituperative octopus of the virulent species whose tentacles are multiplying more rapidly than rats. The CCP, that replaced the emperors and the Kuomintang, may well adopt the octopus as its symbol and seal. Present day China appears to have taken a leaf from the British East India Company in context of foreign policy; first establish on pretext of trade and then go for the jugular – treachery, deceit, ambiguity being the hallmarks. So you find the China’s Belt and Maritime Silk Route strategy following the same principal. With Chinese nuclear submarines foraging the Indian Ocean already, deep-sea water bases for their docking are being developed at multiple sites like Hambantota and Gwadar behind the cover of trade and commerce.
A massive plan for establishing a string of bases is being operatioanized with the aim of providing land based support to Chinese Carrier Battle Groups that would prowl the India Ocean region in future. This may well include reclaiming reefs and land in the IOR similar to what Chinese are doing in the East and South China Seas. All told China plans establishing some 19 foreign naval bases in and in periphery of the Indo-Pacific waters. The Chinese foreplay is easily identifiable; make such gigantic investments that the target country is unable to repay and extract the price and compound interest in strategic terms. Pakistan and Sri Lanka are already targeted with former being prophesied as the 23rd future province of China. Now Maldives is in China’s crosshairs especially with uncertainties about Gwadar with increased instability in Pakistan. So China has added Pakistan to her own clout in persuading Maldives to sell her island (s) to China in addition to using the port at Male. Why Pakistan, because Pakistan has succeeded in radicalizing Maldives over the past decade plus, imparting terrorist training to Maldivian youth on Pakistani soil and germinating anti-India sentiment, and is in a position to terrorize Maldives to doom her tourism centric economy. That PM Narendra Modi had to cancel his visit to Maldives in March 2015 and Chinese firms replacing Indian firm GMR in the Male new airport development project are indicators of the shape of things to come. Chinese companies (tentacles of the Octopus) have reportedly been handed over some islands for developing them as tourist resorts but then the main opposition party had also alleged in January this year that a Chinese military base is to come up at one of the atoll’s in Maldives. China naturally denied all this but the Octopus will probably mirror its activities as in Gilgit-Baltistan – dig multiple tunnels under pretext of hydel power projects and then deploy missiles in some of these to support her operations in the IOR.
Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen has in a letter to PM Modi said that Maldives will keep India Ocean demilitarized but the new Maldivian land law that minimum foreign investment should be US$ 1 bn and 70 percent of land will have to be reclaimed are child’s play for China. China is pulling out all stops to become the predominant maritime power of the Indo-Pacific region concurrent to working assiduously to attain preeminence as land power of the Eurasian land mass, combination of which would give her the number one spot as the dominant global power of the 21st century. As part of revolution in military affairs, China focused more on submarines, which has not lost momentum in addition to nuclear tipped sea launched missiles. But equal focus is being given for the CBG’s, Hainan favouring deployment of the first one. India needs to view these requirements in the context of Chinese plans to rig a noose around India to include curbs on maritime freedom in times to come. What of the deterioration of the operational capacity of the Indian Navy, as also of the sister Services by way of equipping over the past decades, with 50 percent equipment held by the military obsolete. What are the plans for capacity building and are they in synch with what the Chinese Octopus is up to? If we are to go by the past performance of MoD’s lackadaisical interest and unaccountable attitude, we may well be in for a serious mismatch. Has the state changed since the previous Naval Chief had to resign in frustration over the state of his fleet? And what are our plans for Andaman & Nicobar, if any. These are issues Mohan Parrikar needs to seriously address even as Make in India in Defence not taken off in absence of procedures and total FDI offers in defence are a measly Rs 48 lakhs despite all the trumpeting about Make in India.