by Ali Sukhanver

According to various media reports, the Indian Air Force has recently commissioned the ‘222 Tiger Sharks Squad’ of Sukhoi Su-30 MKI fighter jets in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu. The Sukhoi Su-30MKI is a twin-jet multirole air superiority fighter, developed by Russia and built under license by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for the Indian Air Force. It is a heavy, long-range all-weather fighter equipped with the supersonic BrahMos cruise missiles that have a range of over 300 km. A very high-profiled ceremony was arranged at the occasion which was attended by the Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Bipin Rawat and Air Chief Marshal Rakesh Bhadauria. This extraordinary military-move is being taken as a serious message to China whose entry in the Indian Ocean region is continuously and significantly altering regional dynamics. This entry is being observed through economic investments and military presence along the Maritime Silk Road; no doubt resulting in China’s increasing political influence too in the region.

We see that in last many years China has been very successful in deepening its ties with the regional states particularly with Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. These ties are specifically in shape of the influx of Chinese capital into construction projects. According to a media report somewhere in the mid of 2019, during her visit to China, the Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina signed nine different types of accords covering a range of sectors including power, culture, tourism, and technology. A Letter of Exchange was also signed under which China would provide Bangladesh with 2,500 metric tons of rice as aid for Rohingya refugees. She was promised that China would provide extension of loans worth $1.7 billion for Bangladesh’s power sector. Reports say that during that visit, Beijing also assured Dhaka that it would better align its projects under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) with Bangladesh’s development priorities. Same is the case with Sri Lanka; China has invested a lot in different development projects in Sri Lanka too; these projects include Colombo International Financial City, Colombo International Container Terminals and Hambantota Port. At private and personal level, Chinese investors are investing a lot in the field of hotel construction, agricultural product processing, manufacturing, warehouse and logistics.

Myanmar, formerly Burma, is a country situated in Southeast Asia and is bordered on the north and north-east by China. The two countries are having a very close diplomatic relationship since June 8, 1950 when a treaty of friendship and mutual non-aggression was signed between them. This January, Chinese President Xi Jinping had been on a two-day state visit to Myanmar where he signed more than 33 different agreements with the Myanmar government in the fields of information, industry, agriculture, security and the resettlement of internally displaced people in Myanmar’s war-torn Kachin State, which borders China. During President Xi Jinping’s visit the most emphasized topic had been Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone on the Bay of Bengal which is the terminus of the 1,700-kilometre long China-Myanmar Economic Corridor. Experts say that it is a major link in Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative whose other end is in China’s Yunnan province.

Last but not the least comes Pakistan; a country with the decades old trusted friendship with China. From the making of JF-17-Thunder Aircraft to the marvellous CPEC; the tale of love and care between the two countries is never-ending. Recently a Pakistani doctor who volunteered to treat corona virus patients in China’s Wuhan epidemic area got warm official as well as public appreciation and admiration for his services to the corona-infected patients. Dr. Usman is a Pakistani medical teacher at Changsha Medical College and he is the first foreign doctor who stepped forward to treat infected people in Wuhan as a volunteer.

In short this whole scenario is not very much favourable for the countries like US and India. These countries are frightened of China’s increasing influence in the region and are sure that in near future, China would emerge to the surface as an undefeatable World Super-Power with the support of its Allied countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. In this whole strategic game, the Indian Ocean might be the playground. The point to be kept in mind is that the Myanmar corridor provides China with a shortcut to the Indian Ocean. ‘The Star’ said commenting upon the situation, “An outlet to the Indian Ocean allows China’s sizable oil and gas imports from the Persian Gulf to bypass going through the Strait of Malacca, and could conceivably serve a future military purpose”. It must also be kept in mind that the US and India are very well aware of the fact that China is going to be a very serious threat to their combined interests in the region and that is the reason that India has recently deployed the ‘222 Tiger Sharks Squad’ of Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter jets in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu just 65 miles from international maritime boundary between India and Sri Lanka. Let us see what way China responds to this military action. From stratagem of countering the Corona-virus to the strategy of combating different regional military threats, we have a lot to learn from China.

The writer is an Associate Professor of English at Govt. College of Science Multan, Pakistan. He is a free-lance columnist on Pakistan related defence affairs