Why is China anxious about Indian investment and possible military base in Sabang port in Indonesia? Indonesia permitted India to invest in Sabang port, which is located near the strategic and vital shipping channel – the Strait of Malacca. Does China feel threatened by Indian presence at the Sabang port with which it can control the Strait of Malacca?
Indian PM Narendra Modi departed for a five-day visit to Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore to consolidate India’s relations with three vital partners in Southeast Asia. PM Modi’s first stop will be Indonesia, the largest country in the region which has close maritime and trade links with India. One of the most important highlights of the visit could be the Indian access to the Sabang Island, which lies in close proximity to the Malacca Strait.
Sabang Port and Strait of Malacca
From an economic and strategic outlook, the Strait of Malacca is considered as one of the most important shipping lanes in the world. The Strait of Malacca is the primary shipping lane between the Indian and the Pacific Ocean which links major powers like China, Japan, India, South Korea, Malaysia etc. Close to 100,00 vessels pass through it every year making it the busiest strait in the world.
As India is planning a strategic investment plan for Sabang port in Indonesia, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s forthcoming visit to Indonesia will be keenly observed by China.
“Luhut Pandjaitan, Indonesia’s coordinating minister for maritime affairs, was quoted by the Indian Media – Hindustan Times that “the port’s 40-meter depth is suitable for all kinds of vessels, including submarines.”
China Warns India on Military Ties with Indonesia
Chinese Global Times in an editorial noted that China has always kept a positive outlook toward India’s overseas port investments, but that doesn’t mean Beijing will turn a blind eye on India’s military collaboration with Indonesia.
The Chinese Media stated that – China’s extensive use of the Malacca Strait means its economic and energy security gets threatened if India builds a military base at Sabang port in Indonesia.
The Global Times warned that If New Delhi actually planned to get military access to the strategic island of Sabang, it might get entangled in a conflict with China and will eventually regret its decision.
The Chinese media indirectly hinted that Sri Lanka’s signed a 99-year lease agreement with China for the Hambantota port that gave Beijing a trade outpost in the Indian Ocean. China has heavily invested in ports near the Indian Ocean to boost international trade but none of the ports has been used for military missions.
India’s investment in Sabag port in Indonesia is welcome, but if this collaboration is meant for military use, then China will take countermeasures which includes adopting similar policies in the Indian Ocean.
Indian PM Modi’s visit to Indonesia will be closely monitored by China. Chinese Media concludes by stating that “Hopefully, India and Indonesia can steer clear of any military cooperation”, as India would not be interested to get involved in an arms race with China.