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Strangled by a String Of Pearls?

“There’s nothing wrong with China setting up a base in the Seychelles”. This is apparently what the Indian defense minister had to say when asked if China’s plans to build a naval port on the Indian ocean island chain was of concern to India. The Hindustan Times puts it this way:

The Defence [sic] Ministry on Tuesday said it did not see anything “wrong” in China setting up a military base in Seychelles since this appeared to be part of Beijing’s efforts to combat piracy in the Indian ocean region. “The world has mutual concerns about piracy going on in that region. They are also trying to play a major role in that. I think they are augmenting their anti-piracy efforts. I don’t see anything wrong in this,” minister of state for defence MM Pallam Raju said.

Others weren’t quite so sanguine. One analyst said, “This is a serious development…China seems to have got a toehold in the country, despite the presence there of both the US and India. The question now is, will the toehold turn into a foothold?”

Map of the Indian Ocean (click to enlarge)

Probably not right away; the news that a US drone fell from the sky near the Seychelles airport is a reminder that Beijing will not have the islands to itself. The low key Indian reaction also reflects the multinational nature of the anti piracy effort.  The growing scourge of piracy in the waters off East Africa is a threat to Indian as well as to other interests; ships from many countries are patrolling these waters in the attempt to protect commerce, and the invitation to China makes some sense.

Though not an overtly antagonistic military maneuver, China’s move to the Seychelles is indeed a quiet step forward in the competition with India. Indians have viewed Chinese arrangements with countries like Sri Lanka and Pakistan as part of an effort to put together a “string of pearls” — Chinese bases in countries surrounding India.  Previously, India thought of the Seychelles as part of its own network of regional allies; now that status seems a little less secure, and some of India’s defense bureaucrats will likely be putting in some unusually long hours as they figure out how to respond.

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  • Matthew Brotchie

    Professor Mead,
    could you PLEASE comment on the National Defense Authorization Act and the Stop Online Piracy Act? We could all benefit from your clarity on these bills. If the opponents of these laws are correct in their judgment, the consequences from these laws could be disastrous for our liberty and our economy. Thank you.

  • Sue

    Title: “China offers India a Pearl Necklace”

    ““I don’t see anything wrong in this,” minister of state for defence MM Pallam Raju said.”

    “Some of my best friends are Chinese,” he continued.

  • Jim

    “The Defence [sic] Ministry”

    “Defence” is spelt like that in Commonwealth varieties of English. Look at the ministry’s website for instance.

  • dearieme

    Wotcha mean “sic”: must the Indians write American English? Don’t be so provincial.

  • Scohn

    “The Defence [sic] Ministry”

    Why the [sic]? There’s no error, it’s a reference to the Indian Ministry of Defence.

  • Cargosquid

    Aren’t we trying to sell F-18’s to India? Why not offer them a great deal on recently decommissioned carriers, like the Kennedy?


    That way we get customers, don’t need to scrap a carrier, and Russia doesn’t get money for their POS carrier.

  • Bill Reeves

    Dearieme, Scohn:

    You guys make me sic.

  • oldsalt

    I guess no one sees the advantages to the USA of Diego Garcia, a next door neighbor to the Seychelles? Just about every middle east expedition by the USA has had air power projected from Diego Garcia. Seychelles would afford China similar power projection down the road. Right now everyone is fixated on the jump jet aircraft carrier China is developing. I wonder when they unveil a long range stealthy bomber with the range of a B-52 or B-2? Then the Seychelles will become very interesting to the Indians and the US.

  • willis

    ““The Defence [sic] Ministry””

    This is the way they spell it, Dr. Mead. Remember, when in India, do as the Hindu.

  • Scohn

    Hey, Bill Reeves, no need to get defensive!!

  • teapartydoc

    The Chinese look to be as interested in giving out pearl necklaces as was President Clinton.

  • ErisGuy

    Mead’s use of “sic” doesn’t indicate that the original is wrong. “Sic” means roughly, “cited as written (in the original).” In this context use of “sic” means “if you think ‘defense’ is spelled with an ‘s’, then you’re wrong — the original Indian English uses the British spelling with a ‘c.'”

    In tendentious political commentary, an improper use of “sic” calls attention to the citer’s disagreement with the original. That is not its use here.

  • Amphipolis

    They’ve come a long way since the time during WWII when Chiang Kai-shek had to have the monsoon explained to him.

  • Alice Finkel

    India might want to lease a large naval and air force base in the Philippines. In addition, India should look to China’s line of supply for its widely separated bases.

    China’s sea access is far more constricted than India’s. That is why China is so eager to dominate Taiwan as quickly as possible.

  • Rich K

    Most of you folks need to get a life if all you can comment on is WRMs grammer and sintax,Geez.

  • teapartydoc

    And your scintillating addition to the commentary, Rich K, is….?

  • PacRim Jim

    India short arrange to port ships in Taiwan.
    Now THAT would be provocative.

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