Updated: Oct 31, 2022
Image Credits: Bloomberg
SLOC - INTRODUCTION
Sea lanes of communication comprises the umbilical cord of a state’s economy and the arteries of a region’s economic health. During times of peace, they serve as commercial trade routes but during the war, these routes are considered strategic pathways to keep the war machine fully oiled.
Today, these routes are being threatened by piracy, drug trafficking, gun-running, human smuggling, pollution, accidents, inter-state conflicts, and territorial disputes. None is independent of the other and failure in one often leads to failure in others. This calls for greater cooperation among states to enhance the security and safety of maritime enterprises. They are also the connection threads between the whole Asia.
Throughout history, the sea has been an important medium for economic prosperity. The waterways have been used as a medium of trade and have provided the impetus for the growth of maritime enterprise. Over the years, dependence on the sea as an economical and efficient means of transportation has grown and resulted in a greater concern for the safety of the Sea Line of Communications (SLOC). Thus, any act that is inimical to the safety of the SLOCs, almost by definition, challenges security.
STRING OF PEARLS THEORY
A geopolitical hypothesis introduced by the USA refers to the network of the Chinese military in the IOR (Indian Ocean Region) trying to widen its naval existence along the Indian Ocean Periphery. These "pearls" are allotted by U.S. and Indian strategists. The eponymous "string" of these pearls refers to the possibility of the Chinese Navy connecting these pearls via maritime routes. Targeting India, China has got control over the seaports in the vicinity of the country- Chittagong (Bangladesh), Gwadar & Karachi (Pakistan), Hambantota (Sri Lanka) which not only poses threat to India’s security via water but also prohibits economic growth of the nation.
China opened its first overseas naval base in Djibouti, a country in East Africa, has fuelled worries in India that it's part of China's strategy to encircle the Indian subcontinent with the help of military alliances and assets in Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka,". This can be considered a new step in China's Maritime Footprint.
Being the third largest river body in the world, the Indian Ocean connects east to west and is the source of transport for trading 80% of the world’s seaborne oil.
China has adopted a global infrastructure development strategy called "one belt road" or the belt and road initiative (BRI) to promote mainly economic development and inter-regional connectivity. The initiative was showcased in a manner that was too appealing to be ignored by the countries of the Indian Ocean region. Moreover in the name of this initiative, China will craft a framework for trade and architecture between the BRI countries which will not be favourable to India and may also ease the tensions between India & Pakistan through gas pipeline implementation projects. Many Indians also viewed BRI as highly promising for their country. In the regional context, BRI is seen in New Delhi as China’s endeavour to capitalize on the desires, vulnerabilities, and insecurities of regional countries. India's approach will be to seek the support of its strategic partners within and beyond the Indo-Pacific
Image Credits: Reuters
To stop the increasing illegal encroachment of China, the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue was formed symbolizing the togetherness of India, Australia, Japan & the USA.
Apart from these 4 nations, France & the UK own overseas territories in the Indian Ocean and are planning to become a part of the Indo-pacific future.
It is seen as a strategic grouping. The core objective of the quad is to secure a rules-based global order, freedom of navigation, and a liberal trading system. The coalition also aims to offer alternative debt financing for nations in the Indo-Pacific region.
India can take the support of the other Quad nations to counter China's acts. The Quad arrangement gives India an opportunity to work multilaterally on all kinds of initiatives that can help create a free and open Indo-Pacific region.
Beijing sees the existence of the Quad, as part of a larger strategy to encircle China, and has pressured countries like Bangladesh to avoid cooperating with the group.
Not only India but also Australia, Japan, and the US are expected to be benefitted from the economic growth, military expansion, increasing demand for natural resources, demographics combined with the situation, an increased presence of nuclear-capable actors, space, and variances in the regional structure of governance highlight its importance.
India can work with the QUAD members to establish their production plants in India. India has a comparative advantage in trained human capital.
SOUTH-CHINA SEA'S TERRITORIAL DISPUTE
This sea is rich in fish, oil & gas involves both island & maritime issues. China wants control over this region alone and also has undertaken extensive land reclamation and has started constructing building outposts on the conflicted islands, while the several neighbouring sovereign countries -
Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Malaysia are claiming part of South China.
To conclude, we have already seen the importance of Sea Lane Communication in terms of Economic and strategic purposes. The resource-rich Sea region is under illegal encroachment by powerful countries through various illegal means. In order to emerge as a super-economical power across the globe, China is continuously doing the same and giving rise to a newer conflict. As a result, various countries associated with it are forming the above-mentioned regional cooperation for trade & commerce as well as strategic and diplomatic advantages, so that they can tackle these unjust activities of China and offer resistance to further expansion.
BY SNEHA VANKUDOTHU