Few Reasons to Fear China's 'Pearls'

Discussion in 'Defence & Strategic Issues' started by BangersAndMash, May 27, 2011.

  1. BangersAndMash

    BangersAndMash Regular Member

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    May 26, 2011
    Few Reasons to Fear China's 'Pearls'
    By Ashley Townshend



    Revelations that Pakistan has invited China to construct a naval base at the strategically located port of Gwadar have intensified anxieties about Beijing's Indian Ocean objectives.

    For many observers, any militarisation of the Gwadar facility - a predominantly Chinese-funded commercial port about 500km from the Strait of Hormuz - would confirm deep-seated suspicions about Beijing's so-called "string of pearls" strategy.

    According to proponents of this view, China is establishing ports throughout littoral South Asia as a smokescreen for intelligence gathering and as a precursor to more permanent basing arrangements. Many worry that ostensibly commercial ports in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Burma will eventually be transformed into fully-fledged naval facilities. Access to such bases would enable Beijing to project military power right across the Indian Ocean - challenging US naval primacy, encircling India and threatening the sea lanes that transport about 25 per cent of the world's oil.

    But there are many reasons to be sceptical about this hypothesis.

    While Chinese state-owned corporations have bankrolled commercial "pearls" in South Asia, there's no evidence to suggest these have a military dimension. All are unfortified container ports designed to connect maritime supply chains to a growing network of continental roads, railways, pipelines and airfields. Most serve to link the land-locked provinces of southwestern China to the lucrative trade routes of the Indian Ocean.


    Beijing's strategic interests to the west of Singapore appear more concerned with energy security than naval power. Since almost 80 per cent of its oil imports must traverse the Indian Ocean's vast and vulnerable waterways, China's main maritime objective is to secure its hydrocarbon lifeline. A string of South Asian shipping hubs shortens the voyage from the Persian Gulf to China and reduces Beijing's reliance on the Malacca Strait "chokepoint" - dominated at both ends by US and Indian warships.

    Of course, any deep-water port can also harbour warships. It is thus true that the maritime infrastructure under construction in South Asia will provide a series of useful footholds for naval vessels to rest, refuel and possibly refit.

    Yet Beijing has no monopoly of access to these ports. Chinese warships on regional "friendship missions" or anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden will certainly make use of the Indian Ocean pitstops; so, too, will the region's other maritime powers. What's more, the notion that these "pearls" could one day become robust naval bases seems farfetched.

    Transforming "soft" commercial ports into "hard" naval bases is no simple task. To militarise the Indian Ocean facilities, Beijing would require local air defence capabilities, munitions storage units, mine-clearing assets and a permanent military footprint. These costly renovations would probably exceed the technical, logistical and expeditionary capabilities of the Chinese military for a decade or more.

    Such bases would also be extremely vulnerable to attack. While the Indian Ocean is littered with US and Indian forces - super-carrier strike groups, nuclear submarines, sophisticated warships and pre-positioned airpower - China's strategic presence is relatively insignificant. Beijing has little experience projecting military power abroad.

    Its blue-water fleet remains a work in progress. Its ability to sustain far-flung naval bases would be handicapped by distance and its military's cumbersome internal command structure. This means that Beijing would find it almost impossible to defend any future "string of pearls" in the (unlikely) event of a shooting war with the US or India. While bases would offer useful strategic reach in peacetime, their viability during a conflict would be far from assured.


    What, then, would be the strategic logic behind building these bases in the first place? Many speculate that China's main objective is to offset the vulnerability of its energy supply-lines by acquiring the capacity to threaten the sea lanes of adversaries. However, while the Indian Ocean power balance remains tilted in favour of an Indo-US partnership, Beijing would be hard-pressed to sever trade routes on the high seas.

    Indeed, Washington appears to hold the trump card as far as naval blockades are concerned. Situated at the heart of the Persian Gulf, the US Navy's Fifth Fleet is better placed than any other player to regulate the flow of Middle Eastern oil. As long as Chinese policymakers are unable to alter this reality, they're likely to think twice about militarising any "pearls".


    None of this is to say that all is well in the Indian Ocean. As China and India continue to rise amid an overall climate of strategic mistrust, maintaining the security of international sea lanes will be an increasingly important diplomatic endeavour. This will require greater confidence and compromise on all sides. To allay suspicions and stop us jumping at shadows, Beijing will need to be more transparent on its Indian Ocean objectives.

    Ashley Townshend is a Research Associate in the International Security Program at the Lowy Institute for International Policy.

    RealClearWorld - Few Reasons to Fear China's 'Pearls'
     
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  3. satish007

    satish007 Senior Member Senior Member

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    aaraam se Yaar, China has claimed that they will not help Parkistan build the navy base. just manage the port for business, import oil or something. Indian navy is so strong, will have 4 carriers soon, and all kinds combat ships keep launching, such as the just launched one Trikand, 300 mils cruise missiles, Parkistan and China do not have any idea to deal with it. build a navy base in Gwadar just waste money and soldier's lifes if Indian don't feel happy.
     
  4. BangersAndMash

    BangersAndMash Regular Member

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    ^^^

    I am very aaraam :thumb: What makes u think I'm not?

    And India will not have 4 aircraft carriers!
     
    Last edited: May 27, 2011
  5. Solid Beast

    Solid Beast New Member

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  6. BangersAndMash

    BangersAndMash Regular Member

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    China's Port in Pakistan?

    BY ROBERT D. KAPLAN | MAY 27, 2011


    Pakistani officials have announced that the Chinese look favorably on taking over the operation of the Arabian Sea port of Gwadar close to the entrance of the Strait of Hormuz, and perhaps building a naval base for the Pakistanis there as well. The Chinese have apparently contradicted these claims, indicating that they have made no such decisions on these matters.

    The fact that Pakistan should want deeper Chinese involvement with this strategically located port, even as the Chinese are hesitant to do just that, should surprise no one. Gwadar is where dreams clash with reality.

    The Chinese have already invested $200 million in building a modern port in Gwadar. Furthermore, a presence of some sort at Gwadar makes estimable sense for Beijing in the abstract. China faces what has been called a "Malacca dilemma." It is too dependent on the narrow and congested Strait of Malacca between Indonesia and Malaysia for its oil and natural gas shipments from the Middle East to Chinese ports.

    Thus, China has been engaged in port-building projects in Pakistan and Burma, which, someday, may be linked by roads and energy pipelines directly to China. Besides offering an alternative route for energy supplies, such new ports will be the 21st-century equivalent of 19th-century British coaling stations for China's budding maritime empire spanning the Indian Ocean. Once China has developed a blue-water navy to protect its sea lines of communications, it will require port access along the global energy interstate that is the Indian Ocean. For Pakistan's part, a robust Chinese presence at Gwadar would serve to check India's own strategic ambitions, as Islamabad leverages Beijing against New Delhi.

    The problem is that these are all long-range plans -- and dreams. They conflict with messy ground-level realities. Visiting Gwadar for a week in 2008, I was struck not only by how isolated it was, between pounding sea and bleak desert, but how unstable was the region of Baluchistan, which lies immediately beyond the port in all landward directions. Ethnic Baluchi rebel leaders told me that they would never permit roads and pipelines to be built there, until their grievances with the Pakistani government in faraway Islamabad were settled.

    The security situation is indeed fraught with peril. The Chinese know this. They know that a pipeline network from Gwadar into Central Asia and China must await the political stabilization of Afghanistan -- and Pakistan, too. Until such a day, Gwadar, while a potentially useful coaling station for a budding Chinese navy, constitutes, in essence, a road to nowhere.

    Bottom line: The Chinese may be as frustrated and aghast at the dysfunction of the Pakistani state as are the Americans. Yes, they built the port, with hopes of using it someday. But it seems from their latest statements that they have reservations for the moment. True, they seem to have moved closer to Pakistan to take advantage of Islamabad's estrangement from Washington in the wake of the killing of Osama bin Laden, but they are nevertheless still being cautious. And the caution, I believe, comes not from a lack of geopolitical ambition regarding Gwadar, but from the present security situation in Pakistan, with a government that frankly cannot control its own territory, whether it be the lawless frontier with Afghanistan, or Baluchistan.

    Furthermore, just as the Pakistanis want to use China as a bulwark against India, China -- while not shying away from strategic competition with India -- must at the same time be careful not to unduly antagonize India. For China is building or upgrading ports not only in Pakistan and Burma, but in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, too. The point must be emphasized that it is unclear exactly what China intends for these Indian Ocean ports -- China's so-called "String of Pearls." India already feels surrounded by China and has greatly enlarged its own naval base at Karwar, in the country's south, partly in response to Chinese construction work in Gwadar. Given that India and China may soon constitute the world's largest bilateral trading relationship, China must tread carefully. After all, it has always claimed to its neighbors that its rise is benevolent and non-hegemonic.

    Indeed, Gwadar is important: not for what it is today, but for what it will indicate about Beijing's intentions in the coming years and decades.


    China's Port in Pakistan? - By Robert D. Kaplan | Foreign Policy


    This subject is making alot of headlines in the past few days!!!
     

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