Like the juntas in Myanmar and Pakistan, Bangladesh offers its ports to China
Bangladesh is offering its Chittagong port to the Chinese navy, providing it access to the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean. To some extent, China already enjoys access to the Bay of Bengal thanks to the Myanmar junta, who also provide it with offshore naval and electronic surveillance facilities at the Coco Islands in near the Andaman Sea. Similarly, China is assisting Pakistan with the Gwadar deep sea port which it can access via overland routes through Pakistan. Countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh bending over backwards to please China, if only to thumb a strategic nose at India.
But the Indian navy too is quietly venturing closer to China’s own backyard. Apart from patrolling the Straits of Malacca in partnership with Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, it has also begun to conduct joint exercises in the South China Sea. The countries of South East Asia are not too comfortable with Chinese naval influence in the region, especially given the multi-party territorial dispute over the Spratly Islands.
While the India-China naval dynamic will develop over the next decade, the history of the Indian subcontinent seems to be repeating itself – feuding states of the subcontinent invite foreign powers in the hope of going one up over their neighbours. Getting rid of the foreign power once it converts its toe-hold into a footprint proves painfully difficult.