top of page

How China is pushing into Indian Ocean Region through its 'Global Security Initiative'

Updated: Jan 1

Author : Balasubramian C.

GSI includes the implementation of four major initiatives: the Belt and Road Initiative, the Health Silk Road, the Digital Silk Road, and the Global Development Initiative. These initiatives demonstrate China's efforts to increase its presence and influence in the IOR and around the world

Image Courtesy: CSM

Article Courtesy : First Post

Article : 58/2022

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLA-N) recently held an online forum for the heads of international naval academies on the theme of “maritime community with a shared future.” The forum took place at the PLA Naval Command College from 15–16 December.

According to reports, the focus of the recent online forum held by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy was on educational innovation, opening up to cooperation, and collaboration among naval academies. Although the list of invitees remains translucent, reports indicate that the forum invited over 50 representatives from 27 different countries, as well as military attachés in China. During the forum, the Deputy Commander of the PLA Navy, Vice Admiral Li Yujie, gave an opening speech.

As reported, the online forum held by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy focused on the topics of “function and orientation,” “tradition and innovation,” and “exchanges and cooperation.” During the event, experts held discussions on the role and orientation of naval academies in the overall talent cultivation of a country and military, and exchanged ideas on the reform and innovation of education, teaching, and academy construction in the face of changing times and scientific and technological development.

China has put forward ground-breaking ideas such as “a community with a shared future for mankind”, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the Global Development Initiative (GDI).

China uses international forums to advance its own agenda

It is clear that Beijing is attempting to advance its Global Security Initiative (GSI) through forums such as this one held by the PLA-N. Such forums are used as a way to promote Chinese influence in the case of naval academies in other countries. It is possible that Beijing is trying to use these types of platforms to shape international perceptions and advance its own agenda within the maritime community.

It is noteworthy that the recent online forum comes after the first high-level China-Indian Ocean Region Forum on Development Cooperation, which was organised by the China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA) on 2 December, 2022. This forum brought together 19 countries from the Indian Ocean region, with the exception of India, to discuss issues related to development cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

CIDCA Chairman Luo Zhaohui delivered a speech titled “China’s contribution to the world on philosophy and practice of international development cooperation in the new era”. Luo said that China is a developing country that attaches great importance to both its own development and global development cooperation.

China has put forward ground-breaking ideas such as “a community with a shared future for mankind”, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the Global Development Initiative (GDI). Luo also reiterated that China has provided Chinese wisdom, solutions, and strength to global development cooperation via high-quality Belt and Road cooperation, full implementation of the GDI, deepening of international cooperation on the COVID-19 response, sharing of governance experience and expanding of multilateral and tripartite cooperation, he added.

Despite being held quietly, the China-Indian Ocean Region Forum on Development Cooperation and several other events, including the sixth China-South Asia Expo and the China-Indian Ocean Region Think Tank Forum, were held in Kunming on 21 November, 2022 in a hybrid format. These events demonstrate China’s ongoing efforts to increase its presence and role in the strategically important Indian Ocean region.

Beijing’s Ambition

In April 2019, President Xi gave a speech at a group meeting with the heads of foreign delegations who were attending multinational naval events marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army – Navy (PLA-N). During his speech, President Xi made the following remarks:

  • It was titled “Build a Maritime Community of Shared Future”.

  • China advocates a new concept of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security.

  • With mutual respect, equality and mutual trust, we need to strengthen maritime dialogue and exchanges, increase practical naval cooperation, pursue a path of maritime security based on mutual benefit and win-win results, and join hands to respond to common threats and challenges and to maintain maritime peace.

  • The Chinese Navy will, as always, enhance exchanges and cooperation with other navies, undertake international responsibilities and obligations, safeguard the security of international sea lines of communication, and provide more public goods in maritime security.

It is essential to recognise that State Councillor and Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi delivered his remarks at the opening ceremony of the “Symposium on Global Maritime Cooperation and Ocean Governance 2022”. It was held in Sanya, Hainan co-sponsored by the China-Southeast Asia Research Center on the South China Sea, Huayang Research Center for Maritime Cooperation and Ocean Governance, China Ocean Development Foundation and National Institute for South China Sea Studies. During his remarks Wang Yi reiterated President Xi Jinping’s ambition of “building a maritime community with a shared future”. Apart from maritime security and development the stress was also on ocean governance.

Indianness of Indian Ocean Region

In April 2022, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced a Global Security Initiative (GSI) that he claimed would address global security concerns. During his speech, Xi emphasised the need for a “common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable” approach to security that rejected Cold War-era thinking and upheld the principle of “indivisible security.” This vision was reiterated by Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe during the Shangri-La Dialogue in June 2022.

The Global Security Initiative (GSI) and related exercises are closely connected to China’s strategic objectives, which have been shaped by President Xi’s thinking on regional security since 2013. This includes the implementation of four major initiatives: the Belt and Road Initiative, the Health Silk Road, the Digital Silk Road, and the Global Development Initiative. These initiatives demonstrate China’s efforts to increase its presence and influence in the region and around the world. In 2017, the State Council Information Office released a white paper stating that the key to maintaining long-term stability in the Asia-Pacific region is to build a security framework that is oriented towards the future. This paper further demonstrates China’s thinking on regional security policy.

During Chinese Foreign Ministerial visits to East Africa, Maldives, and Sri Lanka in January 2022, an interesting initiative was proposed: the “China-Indian Ocean Council,” with a group of Indian Ocean countries. This demonstrates China’s ongoing efforts to increase its presence and influence in the Indian Ocean region. The proposal met with concerns in India due to its potential security implications.

In 2019, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs established the “Indian Ocean Division,” effectively reorganising India’s previous distinctions between the Indian Ocean, Eastern Africa, and Southern Africa regions. This move institutionalised India’s focus on the Indian Ocean region and recognized the separate identity of island nations in this area. This reorganisation also reflects India’s recognition of the importance and distinct character of the Indian Ocean region.

During the Defense Expo 2022 in Gandhinagar, India’s Defense Minister Rajnath Singh stated that India is looking to strengthen its engagement in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) in order to ensure that the region plays a significant role in driving the global economy. He said India is determined to take a responsible role and continue to work for the regional and global security of the IOR where representatives of around 44 countries participated in the IOR meeting on the sidelines of Defence Expo 2022. This emphasises India’s commitment to fostering greater cooperation and collaboration in the IOR.

Given that most of the nations in the Indian Ocean Region, with the exception of Australia and India, have already signed up for the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), it appears that China is seeking to create a forum to provide a platform for discussion and bring the Indian Ocean into a single, manageable, and coordinated entity through the Global Development Initiative (GDI) and Global Security Initiative (GSI). Described as “another global public good” that offers Chinese solutions and wisdom for addressing global developmental and security challenges. While these initiatives according to Beijing may be based on principles, they however lack providing concrete details.

On its part India is proactively giving a wider push in the Indo-Pacific with initiatives like the QUAD and in the IOR with groupings like IORA, IONS and IPOI. China is pushing the envelope with alternative institutions with IOR countries that help Beijing display its presence and influence from the Indo-China Sea (South China Sea) to the Indian Ocean, reflecting its status as a significant power. It will be interesting for New Delhi to see how the Chinese architecture takes shape and what it will involve. More significant, perhaps, is instilling India’s central role in the region and in ensuring the Indianness of the Indian Ocean is not diluted.

(Mr. Balasubramanian C is a Senior Research Officer at C3S. The views expressed are those of the author and does not reflect the views of C3S.)

148 views0 comments
bottom of page