When China’s President Xi Jinping visited Indonesia last year, he raised his idea on reviving the maritime silk road running from China through Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean to Europe. His true intention may well be to obtain trade related shipping facilities along China’s trade lifelines linking the Middle East and Europe.
The US has a large military base in the Indian Ocean and powerful aircraft carrier battle groups that control China’s trade lifelines; while China, though it can use the port facilities in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, has no foothold for its navy and air force there. That makes China’s trade lifelines vulnerable.
China has succeeded in obtaining Maldives’ cooperation in getting a foothold there. However, India regards the Indian Ocean as its sphere of influence. It will certainly do its best to hinder China’s efforts. We can foresee that the geopolitics in South Asia may become very complicated.
The following is The Economic Times’ report on Xi’s success in obtaining Maldives’ support for the maritime silk road:
China’s President Xi Jinping wins Maldives backing for ‘maritime silk route’
China’s President Xi Jinping secured Maldivian support today for a “21st century maritime silk road” as he began a South Asian tour in the strategically located Indian Ocean atoll nation.
The Maldives is best known for its tourist industry but also straddles major international shipping lanes, and Chinese investment there has grown significantly as Beijing tries to secure vital trade routes.
In a joint statement, the two countries also said they agreed to cooperate on security issues — a potentially sensitive issue in a region traditionally dominated by India. “The Maldives welcomes and supports the proposal put forward by China to build the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, and is prepared to actively participate in relevant cooperation,” the statement said.
“The two sides agreed to enhance cooperation in other areas, such as marine, economy, and security,” it said without elaborating. Xi is the first Chinese head of state to visit the Maldives since the former British protectorate gained independence in 1965. It is his second meeting with President Abdulla Yameen in a matter of weeks, following their talks last month in the Chinese city of Nanjing.
India has regarded China’s growing influence among its neighbours with concern, leading new Prime Minister Narendra Modi to prioritise regional relationships which critics say the the previous government neglected.
A Maldivian government source said before the meeting that Male was keen to avoid upsetting regional superpower India by bringing up sensitive security issues, since New Delhi considers the islands to be within its sphere of influence.
Yameen said the Maldives was “honoured” to be a part of the trade route initiative, flagged by Xi during a visit to Indonesia last year and intended to revive a route running from China through Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean to Europe.
The proposal called for increased maritime cooperation between China and Southeast Asian nations, and for China to work with partners to develop ports and other maritime infrastructure.
“I am confident that this is the beginning of an era of heightened and sustained cooperation between the Maldives and China,” Yameen said.
Yameen also secured Chinese support for an ambitious project to build a road bridge between central Male island and nearby Hululle island, where the international airport is located.Source: The Economic Times “China’s President Xi Jinping wins Maldives backing for ‘maritime silk route’”
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