String of Pearls Theory Current Affairs
Pakistan has leased the operations of its strategic Gwadar port to a State-run Chinese firm, the China Overseas Port Holding Company (COPHC) for a period of 40 years. COPHC is slated to carry out all the developmental work on the port situated in the Balochistan province of Pakistan. COPHC took over the operations of the port in 2013. Previously, the control of the Gwadar port was with Singapore’s PSA (Port of Singapore Authority) International.
As per the contract, 91% share of revenue collection from gross revenue of terminal and marine operations as well as 85% share from gross revenue of free zone operation will go to the COPHC. The provinces will not be given any share in the revenue collection.
Gwadar Port is a warm-water, deep-sea port situated on the Arabian Sea at Gwadar in Balochistan province of Pakistan. It is located at the mouth of the Persian Gulf just outside the strategically important Strait of Hormuz. It features as the southern Pakistan hub of the $57 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) plan. It is considered as a vital link between the Chinese One Belt, One Road initiative and the Maritime Silk Road project.
Advantages for China
Gwadar offers China a shortest route to oil-rich West Asia and Africa. China can use the port to transport fuel into north-western China, by transporting oil and gas from the port through pipelines to China’s Xinjiang province. Having Gwadar under its command would change the security dynamics for China. As China’s oil imports increase, it would prefer to insulate its energy transports from the troubled waters of the Straits of Malacca and the South China Sea.
Implications for India
Gwadar port offers serious strategic implications for India. Gwadar provides China a key listening post to observe the Indian naval activities around the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Aden. The Gwadar port, if fully operationalised, will wean Pakistan away from near-total dependence on Karachi, which is much closer to India and hence within the Indian military’s strike range. Lease of Gwadar port also helps China to encircle India (String of Pearls) and gain strategic advantage in the region. India has apprehensions that these ports could be used for military purpose as well.
Sri Lankan Government has announced that they would not any country to set up naval base on its territory.
This announcement was made by Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe while he was speaking at the International Maritime Dialogue at Galle, Sri Lanka.
Significance of this announcement
- The statement of Sri Lankan Prime Minister ends the apprehensions that Sri Lanka may allow China to use all or part of any of its harbours or ports for strategic naval military use.
- Major setback for Chinese strategy to increase its geopolitical influence of soft diplomacy in Asia, East Africa connectivity and so called String of Pearls Theory.
- Possibly stop Chinese long term plan to extend its sea power and geopolitical influence in the Indian Ocean. Thus, benefiting India’s influence in strategically important maritime regions connecting west with east.
Under the so called String of Pearls Theory
- China was building special diplomatic and military relationships with Pakistan and Sri Lanka for extending its reach down the Indian Ocean and secure its energy security sea lines.
- It was seeking to encircle India by setting up new strategic ports, airfields in Pakistan (Gwadar), Sri Lanka (Hambantota) and Bangladesh (Chittagong).
- Chinese intentions was to increase its geopolitical influence in the Indian Ocean region mainly to overcome several major maritime choke points for its sea lines such as the Strait of Mandeb, Strait of Malacca, Strait of Hormuz and Lombok Strait.