Beijing: The China-Indian Ocean Region Forum on Development Cooperation can be perceived as another expansionist attempt by China to amplify its presence in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) by investing in ports and infrastructure in the IOR countries, especially in South Asia.

According to the report, against the backdrop of the recent setbacks that China faced in the region, including in Sri Lanka and Pakistan, the China-Indian Ocean Region Forum is a clear attempt by Beijing to reclaim some of the lost ground.

Luo Zhaohui, the chairman of the China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA), said: "The Indian Ocean connects Asia, Africa, and Oceania and serves as an important window and route that connects China and other countries in the region to the rest of the world."

Zhaohui, who is also the former Chinese Ambassador to India, said in order to grow the blue economy, China will strengthen cooperation with Indian Ocean countries and will advance the implementation of the Global Development Initiative in the region.

Representatives of 17 states and three international organisations attended the meeting virtually. Though Beijing claimed that India was invited to the forum, there were representatives from the country at the meeting.

According to Mizzima News, the CIDCA, an official Chinese agency, hosted the forum along with the People's Government of Yunnan province on November 21. It said the CIDCA seems to have been established with a view to counter the strong influence that India holds in the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), an organisation with 23 member states.

China, which has an eye on the strategic benefits the IOR has to offer, has repeatedly said the Indian Ocean is not India's ocean. The country is looking towards expanding its economic, military, and political influence in the region, the report said.

According to Mizzima News, dominating the region will not be an easy task for China as the US through a host of initiatives like the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework is seeking to closely integrate itself into the region.

"So, clearly, China will need to rethink its approach of luring its neighbours and smaller countries in the region. The country will also have to also shed its hostile outlook when it comes to other actors in the region," the report said.

China continues with its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) through Myanmar as only Myanmar could give it access to both the Indian Ocean and the Pacific to fend off the perceived encirclement of its borders.