India to counter Chinese influence through the ‘Necklace of Diamonds’

By Udbhav Bhargava

The ‘Necklace of Diamond’ is India’s reaction to China’s ‘String of pearls.’ This is part of a multi-stakeholder strategy to combat the aspirations of China in the Indian Ocean region and the Indo-Pacific region.

What is ‘String of pearls’?

The ‘Pearl String’ strategy of China ensures that maritime bases are established in Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Djibouti to enhance its influence and military network. India claims that China is seeking to encircle the Indian Ocean with a network of dual-use port facilities. Concern-Choke points for defense, energy and stability. Sea lines run through several major maritime choke points like the Mandeb Strait, the Malacca Strait, the Hormuz Strait and the Lombok Strait. These pearls are positioned close to many of those Chinese choke points.

Diplomatic Debt traps 

Sri Lanka had depended heavily on China to develop a port in Hambantota for $1.5 billion. After the port worked at a loss and was unable to produce enough revenue to repay the loan to Beijing, the port was leased to China for 99 years in exchange for $1.1bn which eased its situation.

Encircling India. China through several measures, such as, debt traps, CPEC, Belt and road projects, et cetera has established or expedited the establishment of ports and naval bases.

India’s Counter

India has been creating a “Necklace of Diamonds” to counter the “String of Pearls” created by China. The ‘Necklace’ comprises

1. Changi Naval Base in Singapore

2. Chabahar Port in Iran

3. Assumption Islands in Seychelles

4. Sabang port in Indonesia

5. Duqm Port in Oman

Changi Naval base, Singapore 

In 2018, PM Modi signed the India-Singapore Bilateral Navy Cooperation Agreement which allows logistical support for Indian Navy vessels, including refueling at the Changi naval base in Singapore. Benefit-The Malacca Strait is known as one of the world’s most significant (and busiest) shipping lanes. This is the main lane for shipping between the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

Chabahar Port in Iran 

The port of Iran offers links to Afghanistan, and a significant trading route to Central Asia.

Assumption Island, Seychelles

India buttresses its position to fight the Chinese who established and operated nearby Gwadar Port in Pakistan from Assumption Island naval base. India and Seychelles decided in 2015 on building the naval base for that area. This base is of strategic significance for India as China wants to expand its influence on the African continent via the maritime route and the island of Assumption lies on the main coast.

Sabang Port, Indonesia 

In 2018, India got the military access to Sabang Port which is located right at the entrance of Malacca Strait, near the Nicobar Islands. A large chunk of trade and crude oil passes on to China through this region.

Duqm Port, Oman

India also got military access to the Port of Duqm in 2018. It sits on Oman’s south-eastern seaboard. The harbor facilitates crude imports from the Persian Gulf from India. In addition, Indian facilities are located right between the two major Chinese pearls — Djibouti and Gwadar. Besides that, India is building strong naval ties with Vietnam, Japan, France, Australia and the US.

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