[Answered]What do you understand by ‘The String of Pearls’? How does it impact India? Briefly outline the steps taken by India to counter this.

Demand of the question

Introduction. What is string of pearls?

Body. Its impact on India. Steps taken by India to counter string of pearls.

Conclusion. Way forward.

String of Pearls refers to the Chinese intention to establish a network in India Ocean Region (IOR) surrounding India. Each Pearl represents some form of permanent Chinese military installation in a series of locations along a String. Recent development of ports around India, in Gwadar, Hambantota, Sittwe on the Bay of Bengal Coast in Myanmar etc. are seen as part of a string of pearls. Although these are commercial ports, the fear is that these could be easily converted to Naval facilities in case of a conflict in India.

 Impact on India:

  1. Strategic impact: Strings of pearls will lead to China surrounding india. China, which doesn’t have any openings in indian ocean, will be able to dominate it. Strategic clout of India which it enjoys today in indian ocean will be reduced. Countries which today consider India as a partner in response to China may end up in the lap of china.
  2. Economic impact: Indian resources will be diverted towards defence and security. Thus, the economy will not reach its potential hampering economic growth. This may further lead to instability in India and the whole east and south east region.
  3. Maritime security: China’s presence will pose a threat to India’s security through water. China is developing more firepower with more submarines, destroyers, vessels and ships. This endangers Indian maritime security.

Steps taken by India to counter string of pearls:

  1. Act East Policy: India’s Act East Policy, which was launched as an effort to integrate India’s economy with South East Asian nations. It has been used to make important military and strategic agreements with Vietnam, South Korea, Japan, Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore helping India to counter China.
  2. Military relationships: India has developed strategic naval relationship with Myanmar to upgrade and train its navy which gives India an increased footprint in the area. India has also made strategic agreements for military cooperation in the region with Japan, Australia and the USA. The four countries carry out joint military exercises in the IOR region and are known as the ‘Quad’.
  3. Chabahar port: India is developing Chabahar port in Iran, opening a new land sea route to Central Asian countries by-passing Pakistan. Chhabahar gives India a strategic position since it overlooks the Gulf of Oman, a very strategic oil supply route.
  4. Strategic pact with France: India and France recently signed a strategic pact opening up their naval bases to each other’s warships across the Indian Ocean. It grants the Indian navy access to strategically important French ports including one in Djibouti, home to China’s single overseas military base.
  5. Surrounding China in the north: India has invested a lot diplomatically in countries like Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Mongolia, all surrounding China.
  6. Naval bases and airfields: India finalised an agreement for a new base in the Seychelles and negotiated military access to naval facilities at Oman’s port and airfields. A pact allowing deployments from each other’s naval facilities was signed with Singapore in 2017. With expanded bases on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands at the end of the Malacca Strait, India is raising the stakes in the fight over the waters of Southeast Asia.

It should be noted that many of the solutions are not immediate in nature and may require at least 2-3 decades to fructify. What is needed is the strong decision-making ability at the highest levels to change the status quo. The timely execution of the planned strategic initiatives would play a key role in making India’s presence in Indian Ocean a strong Leader.

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