China’s Naval Base(s) in the Indian Ocean—Signs of a Maritime Grand Strategy?

Jayanna Krupakar is a civil servant with the Government of India. Previously, he was a Junior Research Fellow in the International Studies programme at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. The views expressed are personal.
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  • May 2017

    The article assesses China’s Indian Ocean strategy against the backdrop of its naval base development in Djibouti. It argues that China’s naval force posturing stems from a doctrinal shift to ocean-centric strategic thinking and is indicative of the larger gameplan of having a permanent naval presence in the Indian Ocean. China’s maritime strategy comprises four key components. First, to channel naval reinforcements for securing its maritime trade and economic interests in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR)—even as it strengthens the Maritime Silk Road initiative. Second, to develop logistical and operational capacities for a permanent far-seas presence, including preparedness for maritime combat and non-combat operations. Third, to undermine India’s geo-strategic influence in the IOR as the two lock into a near zero-sum game maritime competition. Fourth, to overcome the threat of US naval dominance and deter its coercive tactics by enhancing the costs of military conflict. Beijing’s ultimate objective is to emerge as a ‘global maritime power’ capable of commanding the far seas and oceans.