What is India's sphere of influence to checkmate China?

Edited By: Gravitas desk WION
New Delhi, Delhi, India Updated: Apr 29, 2021, 11:04 AM(IST)

A case has been registered against them under Section 2 of the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971. Photograph:( Others )

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In this report, we will look at India's sphere of influence and how far does it extend. We will also see what are India's plans to consolidate its presence

Every country is territorial about its sphere, with Russia considering eastern Europe as its backyard and the US thinking the same of Central America.

In this report, we will look at India's sphere of influence and how far does it extend.

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We will also see what are India's plans to consolidate its presence?

Let's begin with the vast Indian Ocean to the south.

Indians have sailed these waters for hundreds of years, but of late, it has become a strategic playground because of China.

Beijing wants to box India in with the 'String of Pearls' initiative, which comprises strategic ports that China controls.

Also read | China's aggression continues as Liaoning sails between Japanese islands

India has responded in kind, as it is developing a military base in the south-western Indian Ocean.

There is North Agalega, an island controlled by Mauritius, India's long-standing ally.

This is where India is building its base.

It might seem like the middle of nowhere, but look around and it will make perfect sense.

To the south is the Reunion island, controlled by the French, another close ally, and to the north is Djibouti, China's foothold in Africa where they have a military base. 

So the Indian base serves two objectives. 

The first is to coordinate with allies and in fact, this is already happening as India recently conducted joint patrols with French vessels from the Reunion.

The second objective is surveillance, as from Agalega, India can keep an eye on Southern African trade routes, where most of China's energy trade is concentrated. 

But we are not quite at that stage because North Agalega is still a remote outpost. 

It is 12 km long and 1.5 km wide, which means it is small even by island standards.

Fewer than 300 people live there and until a few years back it was like a ghost island.

However, today it is buzzing with construction activity.

In October 2014, the island was wilderness surrounded by sea, but in 2015, India sought access to it.

New Delhi wanted to develop it as a staging point for its air force and navy.

Six years later, there is a new 3,000-metre-long runway, capable of hosting India's new Boeing patrol aircraft.

To the island's north, a new seaport is being constructed.

There are barracks, parade fields and accommodation for Indian workers.

It's a full-fledged Indian military base, but both India and Mauritius have been tight-lipped about it.

But, chances are, Agalega will serve as a surveillance hub for India, a crucial foothold in the south-western Indian Ocean.

In fact, Australia too is shifting focus to its military bases and again because of China.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced a major spending spree, close to 580 million dollars, to upgrade four military bases to the country's north.

All kinds of upgrades are being planned, including a larger airstrip in the northern territory, new firing ranges, training facilities and housing for US Marines during joint war games.

The messaging from Canberra has changed in the last few months.

First, they tried to strike a balance between criticising China and trading with it, a move that failed miserably.

Now, top Australian officials are asking liberal democracies to brace for war.

Morrison appears more invested in the campaign against China.

"Our objective here in this part of the world is a free and open Indo-Pacific. Our objective here is to ensure a peaceful region but one that, at the same time, Australia is in a position to always protect its interests, always advance our national interests, always support a global world order that favours freedom and that is something that we share very deeply with our American friends and allies," Morrison said.

So the walls are closing in around China, not just militarily, but countries are mounting an economic challenge too.

This is where supply chains come in.

China controls global supply chains and it is dangerous for the world.

Beijing can choke any country it wants to and the downside of Chinese control was seen last year. 

There was no transparency and a lot of delays.

So three countries have come together to sidestep China: India, Australia and Japan, members of the Quad alliance.

They have launched a new supply chain project called the Supply Chain Resilience Initiative (SCRI). 

Under this, businesses from these three countries will join hands and meet at investment forums facilitated by their governments.

The idea is to create a stable and seamless supply chain, one that can survive disruptions.

They've issued a joint statement, saying that the current supply chains are vulnerable, in a clear reference to China.

But the joint statement did not mention Beijing. Nonetheless, China is livid.

It has called this initiative an artificial supply chain, a deviation from the free-market economy.

The irony is that an opaque Communist country is preaching the world on free-market theory.

Regardless of what China thinks, the initiative is going ahead. 

As a first step, all three countries will share best practices on robust supply networks.

Their trade ministers will meet annually to review progress.

So three Quad nations are showing the way beyond China.

The US is missing from this initiative, but it does call for a possible expansion if there is consensus.

Talks will not dissuade the Chinese military, but overseas bases and war games will.

The same is true for China's supply chain system as you can talk all you want at the World Trade Organization (WTO), but Beijing always reverts to type.

So the solution is this: build your own supply chain, delete Beijing from the equation.

There should be military deterrence and economic isolation, something that should make China pay.

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