English Hindi


Prelims Capsule

International Relations

China’s growing presence in Indian Ocean Region a challenge for India?

China’s growing presence in Indian Ocean Region a challenge for India?


  • GS 2 || International Relations || India & its Neighbours || Indian Ocean Region

What is the issue?

  • The Indian Ocean Region (IOR) of the 21st-century represents a geopolitical hotspot.
  • Power politics is gaining traction in the region, with China attempting to form a leading presence in the vast waters surrounding the Indian subcontinent.

Another source of rivalry between the two powerful countries of Asia

  • The Indian Ocean is the world’s third-largest body of water, and it has become a growing source of rivalry between China and India. Increased activity, such as port development and military drills and rhetoric, could jeopardize stability in a critical region for global trade flows.

  • India has regarded the Indian Ocean as a haven for peace and stability. Now that China has decided to become a major player in the region, India has reason to be concerned because China will move into India’s immediate neighborhood.

Significance of Indian Ocean

  • The potential of the Indian ocean is huge
    • Over the next 20 years, the Indian Ocean littoral has the potential to become the leading source of new global growth.
    • The region is home to one-third of the world’s population, as well as one-quarter of UN members.
  • Acta as abridge
    • It connects the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia to the larger Asian continent to the east and Europe to the west via critical sea trade routes.
    • The Indian Ocean contains a number of the world’s most important strategic chokepoints.
    • The Indian Ocean channels transport two-thirds of the world’s oil shipments, one-third of bulk cargo, and half of all container traffic.
  • Resource and Mineral-rich
    • The Indian Ocean produces nearly 40% of the world’s offshore petroleum.
    • The Indian Ocean is rich in minerals, and fisheries are becoming increasingly important for both exports and domestic consumption.
    • China and India rely on energy resources transported through the Indian Ocean’s secure sea lanes to power their economies.
  • India imports nearly 80% of its energy, primarily from the Middle East.
  • The strategic location-The region is home to some of the world’s most volatile conflict zones, as well as several nuclear powers.
  • Stability for Blue economy
    • Almost 95 % of Indian trade moves by sea, and the living marine resources help in achieving food security.
    • With India moving towards a Blue Economy-the stability, peace and sustainability are essential for India’s growth and development.

The Chinese Strategies

  • Oceans as key areas of Interest
    • China does not recognize Indo-Pacificas one but it does consider both the Oceans as key areas of its interests. China has two different strategies for the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
    • In the western Pacific, the core interest of China has a full spectrum dominance strategy.
  • Increasing its influence
    • China’s rapidly expanding presence in the northern Indian Ocean, as well as the deployment of Chinese submarines and ships in the region, poses a challenge to India.
    • The country has invested the most in shipbuilding than any other country.
  • Influence using BRI
    • For the Indian Ocean, China uses the term stakeholdership for the same purposes; for gradually increasing their presence and leverage in the region.
    • China is increasing its influence not just with military force but through the belt and road initiative 

Impact of Chinese Influence on India

  • Chineses influence detrimental
    • The only ocean named after a country in the Indian Ocean. As a result, this highlights India’s significant presence in this region.
    • China’s increased presence may be detrimental to this position.
  • Jeopardizing India’s position via trade relations
    • The Chinese are expanding their trading posts throughout the Indian Ocean, as well as exploring mineral and oil resources in these areas.
    • Many African and Southeast Asian countries have competitive and cooperative relationships with India, which may be jeopardized by China’s presence.
    • China has become the first or second-largest trading country with all of these Indian Ocean countries, as well as Australia.
  • Maritime interest
    • There is global maritime security interest involved in the region and many nations want India to balance the assertive and rising China and like it to get involved in the dispute to maintain peace and security in the region.

India’s strategy

  • Shoring up its position by signing agreements
    • India is attempting to fortify its position in the face of a more assertive Chinese presence by developing its own “string of pearls.”
    • India has signed a strategic agreement with France, under which each will open their naval bases to the warships of the other across the Indian Ocean.
    • This allows the Indian navy to access strategically important French ports, including one in Djibouti, which provides easy access to key oil supply and trade routes.
  • Expansion of bases with different countries
    • India has finalized an agreement for a new base in Seychelles and negotiated military access to facilities at Oman’s port and airfields.
    • India signed an agreement with Singapore and Indonesia for naval cooperation.
    • India has expanded its bases on Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
  • Project SAGAR
    • India has also increased aid to littorals through Project SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region), which aims to revitalize India’s ancient trade routes and cultural ties around the Indian Ocean.
    • It is a response to China’s maritime silk road.
  • QUAD-To deal and contain China, India appears to be strengthening its alliance with the US, Japan, and Australia via QUAD.

Collective interests of other countries

  • The Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Co-operation (IOR-ARC)
    • IOR-ARC was established in Mauritius in March 1997 and a Charter was adopted. The Association comprises 20 member states and six dialogue partners, the Indian Ocean Tourism Organisation and the Indian Ocean Research Group has observer status.
    • IOR-ARC aims to open the region based on four major components: trade liberalization, trade, and investment facilitation, economic and technical cooperation, and trade and investment dialogue.
    • It does not address defence and security cooperation directly as the aim of ‘open and free trade’ implies maritime security.
  • The ‘Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS)
    • IONS is a voluntary initiative that seeks to increase maritime cooperation among navies of the littoral states of the Indian Ocean Region. The objectives of the IONS are to expand it to the next level of cooperation, create allied maritime agencies, establish a high degree of interoperability, share information to overcome common trans-national maritime threats and natural disasters, and maintain good order at sea. The group has 35 members
  • United States
    • The “Pivot to Asia” strategy of the Obama Administration is designed to engage China by consolidating and expanding diplomatic and economic relationships with existing regional partners, particularly in East Asia and Southeast Asia.
    • Exercises
      • The US has also sought an expanded and more cooperative military presence in the Indian Ocean region, evidenced by the 2006 Cope India exercise and others like it.
    • Cooperation with allies
      • Strong US relations with its key regional allies, including Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea, have been reinforced by strengthened cooperation with countries threatened by Chinese control, such as the
    • Australia
      • As a reaction to China’s growing influence, and as part of the United States’ proclaimed “Pivot to Asia” strategy, the Australian government approved the stationing of US troops and aircraft in the northern Australian city of Darwin in late 2011.
    • Japan
      • 90% of Japan’s imported oil flows to Japan through the sea lanes of the South China Sea, and any undue Chinese influence in the region is seen as a potential threat to Japanese economic security and trading interests.


  • For India to maintain economic growth, its reliance on safe resource transportation is likely to grow.
  • 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 should be noted that many of the solutions are not instantaneous and may take time to fructify. To change the status quo, strong decision-making ability at the highest levels is required. The timely implementation of the planned strategic initiatives will be critical in establishing India as a strong leader in the Indian Ocean.

Mains model question

  • Demonstrate the strategic importance of multiple countries present in the Indian Ocean. Also, why is the Indian Ocean becoming a battleground?