After China setup its first foreign naval base in Djibouti last year, Beijing is reportedly planning to build its second offshore naval base in Pakistan. This new base would be setup close to Gwadar port which is in Pakistan's Balochistan province.
A report published in South China Morning Post said that Gwadar is a civilian port and not fully equipped to cater to the needs of warships. "Warships need a full range of maintenance and logistical support services," the report quoted Beijing-based military analyst Zhou Chenming as saying.
This development comes at a time when the United States - Pakistan relations have hit nadir and it is being seen than China could now emerge as Islamabad's main ally. When the US criticised Pakistan's action against terrorism, China immediately backed Islamabad and praised it.
Concern for India:
This proposed new port makes it clear that China want to encircle India. If Sri Lanka handing over Hambantotta port to China made New Delhi uncomfortable, then this new proposed naval base in Pakistan should send alarm bells ringing. Chinese ships patrolling the Indian Ocean and the Arabian sea is certainly not going to make India comfortable.
China's first naval base in Djibouti and its strategic implications:
China's Djibouti base is is a cause of concern for India not only from military and defence point of view but also in terms of trade with Africa, which has become a bone of contention for both India and China.
The naval base is strategically located on the eastern edge of Africa, which means that movement of Chinese ships will increase in the Indian Ocean region. China has ramped up investment in Africa, as well as rapidly modernised its military in recent years.
In terms of trade, China, at a major summit with African nations in 2015, pledged to invest $60bn in Africa's development. It has started to invest heavily in Africa, especially in infrastructure projects like railways and improving connectivity. China's keen interest in Africa is due to the fact that it has abundance of natural resources. China is not only eying to tap African market but also looking at it as a supplier of minerals and energy.
India, on the other hand, has been a little late in approaching Africa for trade. Although, Indian companies have presence in Africa, New Delhi's push for furthering relations has been somewhat delayed.
In 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Kenya with a focus on on deepening cooperation in hydrocarbons, maritime security, trade and investment, agriculture and food.
In May 2017, Modi pitched for an "Asia-Africa growth corridor" supported by Japan and India which was seen as an move to counter China's OBOR (One Belt, One Road) initiative.