China sent ships with hundreds of troops to Djibouti for opening of military base to protect the country and its interests
According to Xinhua News, ships carrying Chinese military personnel for Beijing’s first overseas military base in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa have left China to begin setting up the facility. The Chinese have been building this port for more than two years, when they gave US$590mn for the Doraleh multipurpose port.
While other countries such as France, US and Japan have had military posts in Djibouti, it is the Chinese entry into the country which seems to be most threatening to the diplomacy within the Indian Ocean Rim. What must not be overlooked is that this growth is concomitant with the ‘string of pearls’ theory: the Chinese will expand their geopolitical dominance by building ports along the Indian Ocean.
This move does not augur well for India, and its position in the Indian Ocean. Located on the northwestern edge of Africa, it is an opening that China is seizing to gain access and protect its interests. It would enable Chinese ships to move freely in the region. What is more peculiar is that the move comes on the heels of the commencement of the 21st Malabar exercises which have been now called a show of the collective strength of Indian, the USA and the Japanese navies. China, who has been trying to assert its power in the South China Sea, has questioned the exercises asking whether they are aimed at threatening the country.
However, the port at Djibouti has been under construction for nearly two years. It will help resupply naval vessels taking part in peacekeeping and humanitarian missions off the coasts of Yemen and Somalia, in particular. “The base will ensure China’s performance of missions, such as escorting, peace-keeping and humanitarian aid in Africa and west Asia,” said Xinhua.
Djibouti, which is about the size of Wales, is located at the southern entrance to the Red Sea on the route to the Suez Canal.
There has been persistent speculation in diplomatic circles that China would build other such bases, in Pakistan for example, but the government has dismissed this.
There has also been a steady increase in Chinese investment both in Africa as a whole, and in the small coastal country. Chinese investment and revenue from the continent is to grow to $440bn by 2025, which will outstrip other countries such as Britain, France and India. China relies on the region for a steady supply of natural resources, for which it supplies cheap goods, builds infrastructure, provides loans in billions and provides foreign direct investment in return.