China is building its first overseas military base in Djibouti next to a US base. We will delve into what it means and how it can affect the security prospects of east Africa and west Asia.
Djibouti, a resource-poor nation of 14,300 square miles and 875,000 people in the Horn of Africa rarelyleaves any imprint on an international platform. But what matters is its relative stable and strategic location i.e. it lies 20 miles across from war-torn Yemen and is in the range of the pirate-infested Somalia. Its location also matters in the scenario of global commerce and energy due to its proximity to the Mandeb Strait and the Suez canal, which sees 10% percent of the world’s oil exports and 20 percent of its commercial exports annually.
On January 21st, the Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry announced an agreement with Djibouti to host its first-ever base beyond the Southern China Sea. Though Beijing calls it a logistics and fast evacuation base, it seems more likely to mark the beginning of a new, aggressive military build up to rival to that of the United States. Since 2015, Beijing has poured over $14 billion into infrastructure development.
Although Chinese foreign minister iscalling it a base for peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance which may help in the evacuation of millions of Chinese living in the Middle East and Africa in case they require it but now the whole thing looks like a different setup. As per Xinhua, China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has dispatched its first troop contingent to Djibouti ahead of its official establishment and that deployment clearly suggests that the base is about to be operational.
The timing of this establishment is not a coincidence keeping in view the America’s diminishing global military footprint that has begun to affect its equations with its allies, along with the fact that an eager China is waiting to replace America in the domain of world leadership by making its global presence felt to the world.
What does it mean for India?
As India is always wary of the Chinese geopolitical strategy named “String of pearls” where it is already set up bases in the Indian ocean and its neighboring countries to encircle it, this improvement comes with a sign of worry too. As India’s import to European as well as west Asian countries through this route stands at about 50 billion dollars and export to about 60 billion dollars. It has raised some eyebrows in diplomatic circles back home too.
With inputs from Huffington post and Jane’s 360-