Updated: May 19, 2022 11:14 a.m. STI
Naypyidaw [Myanmar]May 19 (ANI): China is moving closer to India to gain better access to the Indian Ocean from Myanmar ports, said a keen observer of China-Burma relations, who stressed that New Delhi should increase its naval capabilities to counter this.
A regional expert, who goes by the pseudonym Yan Naing, said the stakes are even higher with the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC), part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
CMEC, which oversees a multitude of infrastructure projects, stretches from Yunnan province to the Indian Ocean port of Kyaukphyu in western Myanmar. Naing pointed out that the CMEC will enable China’s navy, the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), to encroach on the Bay of Bengal.
“It will also allow oil shipments from China to avoid the Strait of Malacca, which is patrolled by the United States (US) Navy’s Seventh Fleet. While the United States and India appear to be at odds over the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, the two have a common interest in preventing PLAN from gaining access to the Indian Ocean,” the expert wrote in an opinion piece for The Irrawaddy.
That concern comes on the back of a US Naval Intelligence report released last month that said the PLAN would have 67 new large surface ships and 12 new nuclear-powered submarines by 2030.
According to a US report, China is developing its navy so that it can control the seas by 2030 and supplant the US Navy as the most powerful navy in the world by 2049.
In this context, Naing warned that China’s threats to India’s maritime domain are increasing and India should increase its naval capabilities to counter this.
Pointing to the disparity in defense spending of the two navies, Naing said India needed to build up its naval power in order to meet the challenge of the PLAN. “How much China is spending on the PLAN is unclear. However, China’s total defense spending of $252 billion is more than three times the $72.9 billion India is spending on its army.”
Highlighting the threat posed by China, the Maynamar expert argued that the United States is able to coordinate with New Delhi in supporting the development of India’s economic, political and military might.
“Preventing China from gaining control of the Indian Ocean could force the United States to adopt a new Indian Ocean policy and deepen its engagement with India through the QUAD and other initiatives,” did he declare.
India will have to decide whether garnering US backing against China is worth abandoning its relationship with Russia, he added. (ANI)