CHINA’S INDIAN OCEAN FORTRESS

The Washington Times on September 5, 2012, reported that in recent years, China has invested heavily in building up military facilities and naval ports in the small but strategically located Indian Ocean state of Sri Lanka. Excerpts below:

It has spent more there than most of its allies because a close military alliance, and possibly People’s Liberation Army presence, would fundamentally challenge India’s dominant influence in the Indian Ocean.

Also, one of the world’s most important sea lines of communication passes through Sri Lanka.

China’s lavish spending on Sri Lankan military facilities reached a new height last week when visiting Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Liang Guanglie offered another $100 million specifically for the island’s armed forces to “improve the Sri Lankan military’s infrastructure and logistics equipment,” according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.

Starting August 29, Gen. Liang and his military entourage of 23 generals and staff members from the headquarters of five of China’s seven front-line military regions roamed Sri Lanka for five days, conducting substantial talks and signing multiple agreements with the country’s military authorities.

China has eyed Sri Lanka for its geographic location and its excellent naval ports as a strategic wedge that can provide a check on India and help it exert stronger influence in the Indian Ocean and the adjacent Persian Gulf.

At the top of China’s list of influence-peddling designs on Sri Lanka is a plan to exert control over its seaports along one of the world’s busiest sea lines, with 200 to 300 mega-vessels passing by every day en route from the Persian Gulf to and from China, Japan, Australia, South Korea, Southeast Asia and the United States.

In 2007, China obtained the right to finance and build a huge seaport capable of accommodating the world’s largest merchant and naval ships at Hambantota. It took Chinese naval and maritime engineers and Chinese port construction workers five years to complete.

But that’s not all. China appears determined to dominate the buildup of Sri Lanka. The Colombo government announced in June, with enthusiastic glee, that China had agreed to spend $50 billion over the next 10 to 15 years to construct key civilian and military infrastructure projects for the small nation, including a second seaport at the capital, Colombo.

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