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China's posturing in Indian Ocean to disturb stability: Experts

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KOLKATA (PTI): Defence and strategic experts on Monday said that China's posturing in the Indian Ocean will disturb stability and peace in the region.

Commandant of National Defence College, Vice-Admiral Pradeep Kaushiva, said that the People's Liberation Army (PLA) of China has been establishing naval bases in the Indian Ocean for a long time.

The PLA Navy may need such bases in large numbers to minimise the geographical distance from China, he said while speaking at a webinar organised by Tillotama Foundation.

"In such a scenario, the Indian Ocean is poised for turbulence and I believe it is in the offing," Vice-Admiral Kaushiva said.

He said, "It is time to forge ahead with the Quad security dialogue – comprising the US, Japan, Australia and India – to check the rise of expansionist China and protect the security of the region".

In November 2017, the four countries gave shape to the "Quad" or Quadrilateral coalition to develop a new strategy to keep the critical sea routes in the Indo-Pacific free of any influence.

David Brewster of Australian National University (ANU) said that China's approach to the Indian Ocean is political and strategic.

Brewster is a Senior Research Fellow with the National Security College at the ANU, where he specialises in South Asian and Indian Ocean strategic affairs.

He said, "There has been a significant deterioration in the relationship between Australia and China in the last six months as our country hailed the need for an independent inquiry into the COVID crisis".

Subsequently, Beijing had imposed sanctions against Australia, he said.

However, China needs Australian resources like iron ore for which the balance of trade was not in China's favour, Brewster said.

He said that there are growing concerns about China's influence in the Indian Ocean and it is time to make Quad a credible grouping.

According to him, the COVID crisis will substantially change the economics of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The BRI is a multi-billion-dollar initiative launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping when he came to power in 2013.

It aims to link Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Gulf region, Africa and Europe with a network of land and sea routes.

Jayanath Colombage, additional secretary to the President and former commander of Sri Lankan Navy, said that his country is not happy about what is taking place in the Indian Ocean.

He said that the Hambantota port, in which China has 85 per cent stake, is a Sri Lankan Port and not a Chinese one.

"We will not allow anyone to use a single inch of our land for military purposes which might pose a security threat to India," he added.

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