India Says China Using Myanmar and Pakistan to Expand Foothold

(Bloomberg) — China is using its influence in Myanmar and Pakistan to strengthen access to the Indian Ocean, India’s Defense Ministry said in its annual report, vowing to take steps to ensure security in a region it has long dominated.

“India remains conscious and watchful of the implication of China’s increasing military profile in India’s immediate and extended neighborhood,” the report stated. China is widening its footprint by “proactive diplomacy through political, military and economic cooperation and engagement,” it read.

China has helped build nuclear power plants in Pakistan, a Myanmar oil pipeline, and a port in Sri Lanka in what it calls efforts to boost trade and economic ties. India remains wary of its military intentions, protesting two visits last year by Chinese submarines to Colombo, less than 200 miles from India’s coastline in waters carrying most of the world’s oil trade.

“India is taking necessary measures to develop the requisite capabilities to counter any adverse impact on its own security,” according to the report.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Sri Lanka, Seychelles and Mauritius earlier this month — the first by an Indian premier in a decade or more to all three island nations — as his navy bulks up to reassert control in the Indian Ocean. India last month increased its defense budget by 11 percent to $40 billion and approved the building of six nuclear-powered submarines and seven new frigates.

Even with the new kit, India’s navy will be dwarfed by China’s fleet of about 49 frigates, 24 destroyers, eight corvettes and about 60 submarines. As China’s navy has modernized, its ships have ventured further afield, showing up earlier this year in ports in the U.K., Germany and Greece.

‘Strategic Depth’

The Defense Ministry’s report also accused Pakistan of supporting the Taliban in a quest for “strategic depth” in Afghanistan, where U.S.-led troops are starting to withdraw after a 13-year combat mission.

The drawdown makes it more likely that Pakistan-based fighters who had targeted American troops in Afghanistan will turn their weapons on India.

Pakistan continues to host non-state actors who serve “as a fountainhead for terrorist activity in the region,” the report said.

India and Pakistan resumed formal talks earlier this month, the first in more than two years between the nuclear-armed neighbors who have fought multiple wars since 1947. Modi last year also accused Pakistan of relying on terrorism to hurt India after having lost the strength to fight a conventional war.

“The use of anti-India terrorism as an instrument of state policy has deep roots in Pakistani military establishment,” the report said. “A meaningful dialogue requires an environment free from terror and violence.”

Source: Bloomberg

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