India is keeping a watchful eye on China’s attempt to boost naval cooperation with Pakistan to ramp up its presence in the Indian Ocean. Sources told The Daily Guardian Indian security, defence and diplomatic establishments will closely follow the development in China and Pakistan amid reports that Chinese Defence Minister Li Shangfu told the Pakistani chief of naval staff that their navies should “expand into new fields of cooperation” to boost their capacity to safeguard regional security.
Meeting Admiral Muhammad Amjad Khan Niazi in Beijing on Monday, Li Shangfu said the relationship between their militaries was an important part of bilateral ties. “The militaries of the two countries should expand new exchange areas, create new cooperation highlights, and work together to safeguard the security interests of both countriesand the region,” Li told Niazi, according to reports.
Indian officials see it as China’s bid to deepen military and naval ties and cooperation with Pakistan with the sole objective of expanding influence in the Indian Ocean. “This is part of China’s strategy to create more problems for India in the region,” officials aware of the meeting in Beijing told this newspaper. “Indian navy and other wings of the defence forces are already on high alert in the Indian Ocean and other geographies keeping in view China’s efforts to expand military ties with Pakistan,” sources said. India is already displeased with Pakistan, China and Afghanistan planning to forge closer economic ties by extending the Beijing-backed China-Pakistan-Economic Corridor (CPEC) to Afghanistan.
China and Pakistan have decided to extend this project despite India’s strong opposition to the “so-called” multi-billion-dollar infrastructure project. At a presser after the SCO Foreign Ministers meeting recently in Goa, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar was on record saying “On the so-called China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, I think it was made very clear, not once but twice in the SCO meeting, that connectivity is good for progress, but connectivity cannot violate the sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
India has consistently raised its objections to the CPEC connectivity project that runs through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). With the CPEC already there for India to deal with, China’s plan to boost naval cooperation with Pakistan in the Indian Ocean will definitely pose another challenge to New Delhi, said officials. “India is fully ready and prepared to tackle any challenge like this be it on land or in the sea,” say diplomats. Meanwhile, reports say that Niazi said the Pakistan Navy was willing to establish closer cooperation with its Chinese counterpart, and jointly safeguard regional security and stability. Days earlier, Zhang Youxia, vice-chairman of the Chinese Central Military Commission and the country’s highest-ranking serviceman, said China was willing to deepen and expand cooperation with the Pakistani military.