US President Donald Trump may not know that China shares a long land border with India but if he is worried about Chinese global expansion plans, Chinese President Xi Jinping is adding to his woes. Xi Jinping is in Myanmar today on a mega expansion plan. China is not only strengthening its presence along India’s land borders but also coming closer to India’s sea borders on all possible points of intersection.
Xi Jinping’s two day visit to Myanmar is the first by a Chinese leader in 19 years. Ostensibly, Xi Jinping is visiting Myanmar to celebrate 70 years of diplomatic relation with India’s eastern neighbour–Myanmar.
There is another common thread linking China with Myanmar — the treatment of their Muslim minority, Uighurs, and the Rohingya respectively. None is apologetic about it but both are said to be contributing to increasing global radicalisation of Muslim youths.
Radicalisation of Muslim youths due to developments along India’s northern and eastern borders is a cause of concern for New Delhi. But that is secondary in the view of the other Chinese plan — encircling India.
While India has refused to join China’s Belt and Road Initiative for violating its sovereignty in Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir, Myanmar is part of the Chinese expansion programme.
There is a China-Myanmar Economic Corridor project, which is on the line of a similar project involving Pakistan. This brings China close on both western and eastern fronts of India. China is sitting in the north and making serious inroads in Nepal and Bhutan to make India fairly uncomfortable.
To top it up, China is developing a deep-sea port on Myanmar’s western coast in the Bay of Bengal. This deep-sea port is coming up at Kyaukphyu, situated in the Rakhine province from where the Rohingya were driven out.
Kyaukphyu is strategically placed. If you look at the map of the region, you will find Kyaukphyu occupying top of a triangle with Kolkata and Andaman Islands forming the other two ends of its base.
The red location mark represents Kyaukphyu. Kolkata and Andaman and Nicobar Islands are also seen on the map. (Photo: Google Maps)
China is coming here to stay. It already has foothold at Hambantota in Sri Lanka, Djibouti on the Arab peninsula, Gwadar in Pakistan and serious presence in Maldives.
In almost every case, China has used its money power to force its expansionist ambitions on the host countries. Of all debts that Myanmar has on its head today, about 40 per cent is owed to China.
Curiously, China is funding a hydropower project on the main Myanmarese rive Irrawaddy. Under the agreement, China will get 90 per cent of the total power generated by the Myitsone dam project with installed capacity of 6,000 megawatt. So, Myanmar gives its land and its river, China brings its money and engineering, and gets 90 per cent of electricity in return. This is happening in India’s vicinity.
Given that Myanmar has its own share of problems with China, it is safely assumed that the leadership of the country is aware of the dangers that China poses, not just to the land of golden pagodas but also to its time-tested friend, India.
China has been backing armed insurgency in the border regions of Myanmar. In fact, China was behind the failed peace deal of 2015 when Japan and other powers had almost brought Myanmar and the insurgents to an agreement. China sensed a loss of grip over the situation and forced, it is said, the insurgents to withdraw from the peace deal.
With greater foothold in Myanmar, China poses a grave challenge to strategic security of India. It already has got some stake in Bangladesh through a $25 billion loan, supply of submarines and weapons, and securing the status of a mediator between Bangladesh and Myanmar over the Rohingya crisis.
India is the only neighbouring country of China which has resisted and challenged to some extent the expansionist agenda of the communist regime.
Xi Jinping is said to be prodding the Chinese policy makers to “return to true form of communism” and his expansionist agenda is an extension of its global vision. This is where the US thinks India is its great ally.
But presence of Donald Trump at the helm of affairs in the US appears to be hampering the strategic interests of both India and the US — since he is utterly illeterate about geography of the region and disinterested in related affairs for a US president.