China displayed the idea for the Twenty – First Century Maritime Silk Road (MSR) in 2013 as a development strategy to boost network throughout Southeast asia, Oceania, the Indian Ocean and East Africa. These initiatives form the One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative designed to increase China’s Influence across asia.
The Indo- Asia- Pacific region and most regions welcomed the proposal of China investing in their country to meet their infrastructure investment and needs, but at the same time there are many questions behind the China’s generous proposal. Thus far MSR initiatives have mainly concentrated in the littoral states of Indo- Pacific region, which raises questions about their intention whether these investments are economic or military in nature.
The Chinese economy is highly dependent on routes that pass through Indian Ocean, which serves as a important pathway for energy supplies and therefore its evident for Chinese government to show interests along these sea lines. During peacetime, these efforts will certainly expand Chinese force in the region by getting access to port facilities to resupply or refuel and in terms acclimatization with other regional militaries, but at the same time it will create as many exposure as opportunities in terms of protecting trade routes, bases and ships during wartime. These concerns are increasingly on Japan’s radar and India Ocean would give Beijing new options to horizontally escalate beyond long – standing Sino- Indian competition in the Himalayas.
Setting aside for a moment the underlying intention of China, the potential benefits from BRI for Southeast Asia could be enormous. China has invested alot to improve interregional connectivity.
The Overall Conclusion is mixed. MSR Projects are neither purely military nor purely commercial even China’s overall approach is probably evolving and also working to encourage a more transparent and economically viable approach.