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Necklace of diamonds vs string of pearls : India-China standoff

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“Necklace of Diamonds” strategy a phrase first used by India’s former foreign secretary Lalit Mansingh while speaking at a think tank in August 2011. Basically India’s “necklace of diamonds” strategy is a counter to China’s “String of pearls” so at the core of understanding what is necklace of diamonds strategy we first have to understand China’s string of pearls strategy.

What is string of pearls strategy? The String of Pearls is a strategy deployed by China, by building a network of commercial and military bases and ports in many countries. This strategy has been deployed by China to protect its trade interests, as a major chunk of its trade passes through the Indian Ocean and various choke points like Strait of Hormuz, Strait of Malacca and Lombok Strait.

Impact of String of Pearls on India:

1.It endangers Indian maritime security. China is developing more firepower with more submarines, destroyers, vessels, and ships. Their presence will pose a threat to India’s security through the water.

2.Impact on the Indian economy – Indian resources will be diverted towards defense and security. Thus, the economy will not reach its potential hampering economic growth. This may further lead to instability in India and the whole east and southeast region.

3.The strategic clout of India which it enjoys today in the Indian ocean will be reduced. China doesn’t have any openings in the Indian ocean, the Strings of pearls will lead to China surrounding India and it will be able to dominate it.Countries that today consider India as a partner in response to China may end up in the lap of China. So after understanding about China’s string of pearls and it’s impact on India let’s move on to India’s counter of this strategy also coined as ‘Necklace of Diamonds ” strategy by commentators.

What is India’s counter to String of pearls strategy?
India is using a multi-pronged strategy to counter the Chinese String of Pearls Strategy. The strategy involves building ports, extensive Coastal Surveillance Radar (CSR) systems to track Chinese Warships and Submarines, importing state of the art surveillance planes which can track down Chinese submarines, operating Airport in the neighbouring country to keep a check on the Port built by China, deepening defence ties, expanding bilateral relations with South Asian countries, Island nations in Indian Ocean region, Southeast Asian Nations and carrying out regular military exercises with navies of USA, Japan, Australia.

Some of the important actions that are undertaken by India to counter the Chinese Navy and its influence in South Asia and the Indian Ocean Region are listed below:

1.India’s Act East Policy, which was launched as an effort to integrate India’s economy with South-East Asian nations. It has been used to make important military and strategic agreements with Vietnam, Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, Indonesia, Singapore, and Thailand helping India to counter China.

2. Building & Accessing Ports –India is developing Chabahar port in Iran, opening a new land-sea route to Central Asian countries by-passing Pakistan. It is strategically located close to the Chinese Gwadar Port in Pakistan and is close to the Strait of Hormuz. Chhabahar gives India a strategic position since it overlooks the Gulf of Oman, a very strategic oil supply route.

Indonesia – India is building a deep-sea Port in Indonesia, a place named Sabang. It has strategic significance as it is close to the Strait of Malacca and India’s Andaman & Nicobar Islands.Myanmar – India built a deep water port in Sittwe in 2016.Bangladesh – India would help Bangladesh modernize Sea Port in Mongla. India can also use the Chittagong port in Bangladesh.Oman – India has signed agreements to access strategically located Naval facilities of Oman. This facility is close to the Strait of Hormuz. More than 30% of oil exports pass through the Strait of Hormuz. Singapore – India has signed an agreement to access Changi Naval Base of Singapore, which is strategically located close to the Strait of Malacca.

3. Military and Naval relationships: To upgrade and train its navy, India has developed a strategic naval relationship with Myanmar which gives India an increased footprint in the area. It has also made agreements for military cooperation in the region with Japan, Australia and the USA. The four countries carry out joint military exercises in the IOR region and are known as the ‘Quad’.

4. Building Coastal Radar Networks Bangladesh – India has recently signed an agreement with Bangladesh to install 20 Coastal Surveillance Radar Systems along the coastline of Bangladesh. This will help India to monitor Chinese Warships which have been frequently visiting the Bay of Bengal. The Maldives – India will install 10 Coastal Radar Systems in the Maldives. These radars will relay live images, videos, location information of Ships moving in the Indian Ocean Region. The project is implemented by Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL). As of 2019, 7 are completed, there were small hiccups in the project due to the Government of Maldives. Once a Government that is favourable to India came to power, the project is moving with full speed.

Sri Lanka – 6 Coastal Surveillance Radars (CSR) have been installed in Sri Lanka. As per some reports, India is planning to set up at least 10 more CSR in Sri Lanka. There are constant ongoing efforts by the Governments of India and Sri Lanka to solidify India- Sri Lanka ties. Mauritius – 8 Coastal Surveillance Radars have been installed in Mauritius. Seychelles – 1 Coastal Surveillance Radar (CSR) have been Installed in Seychelles. The 1st Coastal Surveillance Radar in Seychelles became operational in 2015. It was commissioned on the main island of Mahe.

More Coastal Surveillance Radar will be installed in the small islands of Astove, Assumption and Farquhar. There are plans for 32 more Coastal Surveillance Radar Systems in Seychelles. India – BEL had set up 46 Coastal Radar stations and 16 command and control systems in 2015 in India. In the next phase, 38 more Coastal Radar stations and 5 command and control systems will be set up.

Building ports in collaboration and signing bilateral agreements with countries is usually to improve trade ties with the respective countries and open different trade routes for India. It helps India to counter the Chinese influence in these countries. What will happen in the coming future no-one knows but it seems to be happening right now is not good for India-China relations.

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