New Delhi: The ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has accepted, grudgingly, that India has unique geographical advantages in the Indian ocean.

As per an article published in its mouthpiece Global Times, under the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) to the Indo-Pacific groupings, New Delhi has been able to leverage the advantage with more and more countries joining Indian-led initiatives. 

In fact, with Indo-Pacific construct, India is connecting Indian and Pacific oceans from the east coast of Africa to the west coast of the Americas, and as External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said, “Indo-Pacific is not tomorrow’s forecast but yesterday’s reality.”

In an article on December 17 titled ‘India changes attitude toward multilateral mechanisms for global ambition’, Hu Shisheng, Director, Institute for South Asian Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, pointed out, “India has also taken the lead in planning small-scale multilateral cooperation mechanisms in the Indian Ocean.”

India has expanded its role in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) in the last few years, from Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) to supplying food and medical aid amidst the COVID-19 pandemic to five countries of the Indian Ocean namely Maldives, Mauritius, Madagascar, Comoros, and Seychelles. 

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Earlier in 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had proposed the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI), under which countries like Australia, Japan, and ASEAN grouping has expressed willingness to work with India on issues like maritime security to transport.

In fact, in what looks like a taunt, but is more a reminder for itself, the write-up says, “India wants to be the net security provider of the Indian Ocean.”

While New Delhi hasn’t said so, it is seen as a ‘Preferred Security Partner’.

India’s Information Fusion Centre at Gurugram, which keeps an eye on the movement of ships in the Indian ocean is emerging as the nodal centre for real-time information in the region. The US and France have sent their liaison officers already, with more countries joining in. Under its defence training programmes, India has provided mobile training teams to eleven countries from Vietnam to South Africa, as well as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Myanmar.

The Chinese Communist Party’s indignation via its mouth-piece about India’s ‘Sinophobic, pro-West’ diplomacy comes as no surprise. While Beijing sees India drifting away, it forgets how it opposed New Delhi’s bid for Nuclear Suppliers Group or the UN Security Council. 

The year 2020 saw an increasingly aggressive China, which not only violated agreements on buildups at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) but also indulged in actions such as in Galwan valley where 20 Indian soldiers were killed in action.

Beijing is already perturbed by Quad meetings and Australia being invited to the Malabar exercises and the country perhaps failed to understand or recall the outreach by New Delhi in form of informal summits — in Wuhan and then the Chennai connect. But past is past, as the world woke up to a new China, an aggressive one amidst the coronavirus outbreak.

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