CHINESE INVESTMENTS IN SOUTH ASIA – SECURITY CONCERNS FOR INDIA ?
China’s projects and investment appear geopolitically motivated on their surface, while others seem geopolitically and economically driven. According to the influential “string of pearls” theory, China’s growing access to naval bases and airfields and its improving diplomatic relations with countries encircling India reflects an attempt to establish regional dominance. This theory is based on circumstantial evidence, such as China’s investment in deep seaports and China’s increasing military and diplomatic relations with South Asian countries. These developments though pose larger security challenges for the South Asian region.
Over the years China emerged as Pakistan’s largest defense supplier. Military cooperation between the two has deepened with joint projects producing armaments ranging from fighter jets to guided missile frigates. China is a steady source of military hardware for the resource-deficient Pakistani Army. It has not only given technology assistance to Pakistan but also helped Pakistan to set up mass weapons production factories.What has been most significant security concern is China’s major role in the development of Pakistan’s nuclear infrastructure, emerging as Pakistan’s benefactor at a time when increasingly stringent export controls in Western countries made it difficult for Pakistan to acquire materials and technology from elsewhere.The Pakistani nuclear weapons program is essentially an extension of the Chinese one. Despite being a member of the NPT, China has supplied Pakistan with nuclear materials and expertise and has provided critical assistance in the construction of Pakistan’s nuclear facilities. Although China has long denied helping any nation attain a nuclear capability, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, Abdul Qadeer Khan, himself has acknowledged the crucial role China has played in his nation’s nuclear weaponization by gifting 50 kg of weapons grade-enriched uranium and tons of uranium hexafluoride for Pakistan’s centrifuges. This may be the only case where a nuclear weapons state has passed on weapons-grade fissile material as well as a bomb design to a nonnuclear weapons state
Bangladesh is another element of China’s strategy to dramatically enhance its global naval posture. With Chinese assistance, Bangladesh has built a missile launch pad near Chittagong Port that India perceives as highly provocative. Missile tests have been conducted without informing India in advance, which signifies a break in protocol. All this military modernization and the strong military and strategic cooperation between China and Bangladesh have raised serious security concerns in India.
China, in recent times has embarked upon a policy of strategically encircling India by entering into a development as well as a security cooperation partnership with its neighbours. Through a mixture of grants, soft and commercial loans, China is involved in a large number of infrastructure development projects in all parts of Sri Lanka.In recent years, China has also been increasing infrastructure construction in Sri Lanka’s post war reconstruction. The Chinese economic investments often have military implications, like China building satellite ground stations in Sri Lanka. Moreover, the two countries while entering into a bilateral relation have also sought the support of the other party against various allegations of human rights abuses. This was manifested in the recent visit of President Rajapaksa to Beijing. Completely overlooking the human rights violation in Tibet, Sri Lanka gave full support to One China policy. China also criticized international intervention in what it called “Sri Lanka’s internal affair”, completely ignoring the allegations of human rights violation of the indigenous Tamil population.
Sri Lankan seaports built with Chinese aid understandably makeIndia nervous. As China has acted provocatively toward Japan and its South-east Asian neighbors in shared waters, fears of aggression and expansionist tendencies are not unwarranted.
MAY 10, 2014