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China Indian Ocean Region Forum

  Jan 17, 2023

China Indian Ocean Region Forum

Q What is the context  ?

A China’s top development aid agency convened the first “China-Indian Ocean Region Forum” in the southwestern Chinese city of Kunming.

Q What is the China Indian Ocean Region Forum?

  • It is organised by the China International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA).
  • It is the latest Chinese initiative focusing on the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
  • It underlines Beijing’s growing strategic interests in a region where its economic footprint has been deepening.

 Q What is it about?

  • The CIDCA is China’s new development aid agency similar to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
  • It aims to-
  1. Strengthen policy coordination,
  2. Deepen development cooperation,
  3. Increase resilience to shocks and disasters, and
  4. Enhance relevant countries’ capacity to obtain economic benefits through use of marine resources such as fisheries, renewable energy, tourism, and shipping in a sustainable way

Q Which countries have backed the forum?

  • The organisers have said the forum was attended by high-level representatives and senior officials from 19 countries.
  • But at least two of those countries, Australia and Maldives, subsequently released statements rebutting the claim, emphasising that they did not participate officially.

Q Why such a move by China?

A China’s ambitions in the Indian Ocean have been motivated by three factors-

  • Gaining significance of Indo-Pacific: As the new world order unveils around the Indo-Pacific, Beijing aims to challenge other major powers, such as India, and establish its hegemony.
  • Domestic energy security: Beijing needs the Indian Ocean to ensure its energy security and continue fuelling its growth, which defines its foreign policy and international leverage.
  • Hegemony establishment: Establishing new and alternative institutions with IOR countries helps China display its presence and influence from the China Sea to the Indian Ocean, reflecting its status as a significant power.

Q How is China perceiving its interests?



  1. Political corruption: Beijing has cultivated close and personal relationships with political elites and parties of IOR countries, usually through corruption, party funding, and by turning a blind eye to their human rights abuses and democratic infirmities.
  2. Fractionalization: Friendship with different political parties in Pakistan; bonhomie with the Rajapaksa clan in Sri Lanka, and close relations with Maldives’ Abdulla Yameen are some examples of this widespread phenomenon.
  3. Elite capture: In addition, China has often used the elite capture tactic to ensure a pro-China policy and bag geo-economically and strategically significant projects. This includes concessions on Pakistan’s Gwadar Port and Sri Lanka’s Colombo Port City project.

Q Where does India stand?

  • India was the lone absentee in the forum ignoring the invitation.
  • China has exposed its intention with the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) countries.
  • New Delhi has viewed China’s recent moves in the region warily, including the recent visit of a Chinese military tracking vessel, the Yuan Wang 5, to Sri Lanka.
  • Moreover, India sees the Indian-Ocean Rim Association (IORA) as an already established platform for the region.

Q What are China’s plans for the IOR ?

  • The forum has underlined China’s stepped-up interest in the IOR, where it is already a major trading partner for most countries and where sea routes lie vital to China’s economic interests.
  • The CIDCA forum is the latest initiative to reflect Beijing’s view that it has a clear stake in the region, and that more such initiatives are likely.

Q Has China out-powered India in the IOR with this move?

  • The Chinese initiative looks like a kind of delayed response.
  • It can be seen only as a comparison and competitor to India’s SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region), as outlined by PM Modi in Mauritius in 2015.
  • The Indian idea is implemented through the nation’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy and such other initiatives as ‘‘Project Mausam’ and ‘Integrated Coastal Surveillance System’ (now shared with Maldives).
  • All of them are confined to the Indian Ocean, where India too belongs legitimately, unlike China.

Q What can be the way forward ?

  • In a way, the new initiative reflects China’s unending greed.
  • It also reflects China’s desire and ambition to measure up to the US in reach and outreach, and through them, geo-economics, geopolitical, and geostrategic comparability.