India has swiftly taken a giant step in countering Chinese influence in the Indian Ocean, with External Affairs Minister Jaishankar signing two defence pacts with Maldives and Mauritius—each with a strong maritime dimension.
Jaishankar’s pre-emptive strike follows Chinese inroads in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). Hoping to lower its dependence on the Malacca Straits, which are dominated by the Americans, the Chinese have been making feverish efforts to secure the region’s ports. Besides, Beijing is trying to kill two birds with one stone. In trying to assert in the IOR, the Chinese simultaneously want to the undermine the regional influence of India, another rising power.
The Chinese have already secured Kyuakphyu in Myanmar, Hamabantota in Sri Lanka, and Djibouti in the Horn of Africa, to achieve its twin aspirations.
China’s forays add context to Jaishankar’s latest visit to the IOR. In the Maldives, a deal was inked in the EAM’s presence on Sunday, permitting India to develop a Maldives National Defence Force Coast Guard Harbour at Sifvaru –Uthuru Thilafalhu (UTF).