Is China colonising India's neighbours with arms deal and hefty debts?

New Delhi, Delhi, IndiaEdited By: Palki SharmaUpdated: Jul 14, 2020, 07:16 AM IST

File photo: Chinese President Xi Jinping Photograph:(ANI)

Story highlights

They get weapons and billions of dollars in loans from China. They are all part of China’s belt and road initiative.

China is arming India's neighbours and turning the region into a very dangerous place. First, Beijing buried India's neighbourhood under debt. Now it is supplying weapons.

The string of pearls is being militarized and converted into a noose.

China will supply four-armed drones to Pakistan. It's not so much for Pakistan as for protecting Chinese assets in the country more specifically China’s Belt and Road projects. The drones will guard two investments - the China-Pakistan economic project (CPEC) and the People’s Liberation Army’s base at the Gwadar port. China likes to describe the BRI as an economic project, a development project with peaceful intent but the fact is China's projects are all strategic.

The infrastructure deals always have a military dimension and that is what poses a bigger worry for India. Last year, China had gifted a warship to Sri Lanka. A frigate called “P-625” something that was commissioned into the PLA Navy in 1994. It is now in Sri Lanka's hands.

Then comes Bangladesh, it heavily depends on China for weapons. Bangladesh between 2008 and 2018 bought nearly $ 2 billion worth of weapons from China which was almost 72 per cent of Bangladesh’s military acquisitions in that period.

India's other neighbour Myanmar is the third-largest arms export market for China. Since 2013, Myanmar has imported $720 million worth of conventional weapons from China.  It includes big-ticket deals like combat aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles, frigates and armoured vehicles.

Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Myanmar - they get weapons and billions of dollars in loans from China. They are all part of China’s Belt and Road initiative.

Pakistan has become a testing ground for the militarization of China's BRI. Two years ago, details of a confidential plan had leaked to the press. It was the blueprint of the Pakistan-China military alliance under the garb of CPEC.

According to the proposal, a special economic zone will be used to build fighter jets. It will be a joint project between China and Pakistan. The navigation systems and other military hardware will be built in Pakistan factories. It is again under the military alliance between Islamabad and Beijing.

Sri Lanka is the other ally in the mix. A press release from the website of the Chinese military declares: China, Sri Lanka vow to strengthen defence ties.

The story was filed two years ago. It is an announcement of China's intent. A  senior colonel from China said: "China wishes to boost the development of the Belt and Road initiative to strengthen the pragmatic cooperation between the two countries and the two militaries."

The BRI is a military expansion plan under the pretext of economic development since the inception of the Hambantota project there have been fears that China could end up using the port for military purposes.

Those suspicions were confirmed in 2014 when a Chinese submarine and a warship docked in Colombo. Since then, India has kept a tight watch on Hambantota. The Chinese military has kept its distance from Hambantota for now.

But, it has deep links with the Sri Lankan military. Chinese officers have undertaken high-level visits to Sri Lanka. China has also provided military training to Sri Lankan officers. 

All of this points to one thing, China's silk road is just a means to an end. It will not just put China in the centre of world trade. But, will also be a way for China to boost its military presence. It is a colonisation project. The 21-century version of the East India company.