Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to three Indian Ocean countries is a bid to bolster India's economic and security ties in a region where Beijing has been making inroads in recent years.
New Delhi’s influence in the region has been eroding in the face of a quiet challenge from Beijing—Chinese-built highways, power plants and seaports have appeared in all three countries. With his Indian Ocean tour, the PM aims to counter Chinese influence among small island nations.
China aspires to be a maritime power. Access to and control of the islands in the Indian Ocean is crucial for Beijing to secure its strategic interests in the region. An increasing presence in the Indian Ocean is crucial in strengthening Beijing’s role as a key actor in the emerging security architecture in the Indo-Pacific, say maritime analysts.
China is trying to establish a “string of pearls” (that is, a chain of friendly military bases at which it can refuel and resupply, thereby projecting power further from home) throughout the South China Sea and Indian Ocean.
New Delhi has now woken up to the danger of being outrun in its own neighborhood, and Prime Minister Modi's trip is evidence that its awakening is being translated into action, they say.
"My visit to the three Indian Ocean Island countries reflects our foreign policy priorities in India's immediate and extended neighbourhood," Prime Minister Narendra Modi said upon his departure, stressing his determination to intensify engagement, and close relations, with countries in the strategically important Indian Ocean region
India is only now beginning to take this challenge seriously. This is the first bilateral visit by an Indian prime minister since 1981 to the Seychelles, and the first since 1981 to Sri Lanka, though Mauritius has featured more frequently on Indian prime ministerial itineraries.
With the rise in the military capabilities of China and India, the two countries are increasingly rubbing against each other. Tensions have only increased as China expands its presence in the Indian Ocean region
and India makes
its presence felt in East and Southeast Asia, says a report in WSJ.