China Flexes Muscles in World Oceans: India Must Build Overseas Naval Bases to Contain China
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 19 Mar , 2024

In 1794 CE after the invasion of Corsica, when the port was overtook by the British Navy, the disruption of Europe started. Corsica was the motherland of Napoleon Bonaparte and was the crux of the problem at that time. Napoleon wanted to revenge and a vendetta of politics began. Napoleon disrupted whole of the Europe with his military campaigns of the Napoleonic Wars and started its highly ambitious campaign ‘Battle of Nile’ in 1798 CE. Such was the critical importance of ports for the domination of the world.

Now, in this era, the Indian Ocean is the route of India’s trade with the world and has become the hot-spot of the world’s major powers including terrorist groups. Several Chinese, American and Russian submarines and warships are sailing in the Indian Ocean.

Chinese in the Indian Ocean Region

The People Liberations Army Navy (PLAN) presence in the Indian Ocean has been growing steadily since 2009. FromPakistan’s Gwadar port, Sri Lanka’s, Bangladesh’s Chittagong port, Hambantota to Myanmar’s Kayukphu and Coco Island are operating Chinese bases encircling India. As per the US Naval Institute Report, “Such a capability would give China trans-oceanic reach with single platform. China continuously increases the deployment of its SSBNs and SSNs in the Indian Ocean.

Chinas Maldives Connection

In November 2021, the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) revealed that 75 Indian military men stayed in theMaldives to help the with the operations of the Dornier-228aircraft and two helicopters given by the Indian government. Military installation for the Indian Navy at Uthuru Thola falhuwas coming up in Maldives.  India financially aided Maldives for its defence systems. Former President Solih agreed that the Indian service personnel presence in the Maldives is purely to construct a shipyard and won’t infringe upon his nation’s sovereignty. Maldives formerly a part of India’s Chola Empire during the reign of Rajendra Chola (1014 CE-1044 CE) is now a bone of contention. Its new leader Mohd. Moizzu must be contained in any way by politic and psychological means, and remind him of the operation ‘ Cactus ’ by the Indian Armed forces to free them from authoritarian forces of Abdulla Luthufiin 1988.

After, meetings of Colombo Security Conclave (CSC) member states with the National Security Adviser Ajit Doval there is no solution that has emerged. China is the beneficiary of this cauldron.

India’s Strategic Move to Africa

Now, quietly, but assertively, India has helped the government indeveloping infrastructure on the remote Agaléga island of Mauritius by upgrading the existing air strip to a runway of 3km length to take on any large aircraft and deepening the existing harbor to berth larger ships. This will facilitate the Mauritius government be more responsive to the needs of the local population.

The Agaléga islands of Mauritius have remained a pristine sanctuary, untouched by tourism and industry. India has unveiled a significant upgrade to its facility on the small island. Previously, the islands possessed a single dock for fishing boats and a small airfield. However, this changed in 2021 when India constructed a substantial airstrip and jetty on Agaléga’s larger northern island. The Indian Navy will send at least 50 officers and guards to staff the new airstrip, which can handle Boeing P-8I Poseidon surveillance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft of the Indian Armed Forces. The newly established Agaléga base serves several critical functions for India. It will support surveillance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft, and bolster maritime patrols. The Agaléga facilities also will enable maritime patrols over the Mozambique Channel, and its staging point will let the Indian Navy observe shipping routes around southern Africa.

China’s New Atlantic Frontier and Afro-Asian Bases

China’s naval base in Djibouti provides a strategic foothold in the world oceans, but it is not alone in its indebtedness to China. Other African nations have significant financial ties with Beijing. High levels of debt and economic dependency on China make other nations vulnerable to similar developments.

Peoples Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has Nine locations that will most likely be bases for the future are:

Naval Base



Sri Lanka/Asia




Cambodia/South East Asia


Equatorial Guinea/Central Africa


Cameroon/Western Africa






Comoro/South East Africa


Vanuatu/East of Australia

China has also approached UAE, Namibia, Nigeria and SolomonIslands for its naval bases.

According to a Wall Street Journal report, Equatorial Guinea base give access to China with an opportunity to establish a military presence on the Atlantic. Whether or not it builds such new installations in the short term, Beijing’s consolidation of Pan-African security architecture will undoubtedly lead to their establishment in the long term. If China continues to consolidate its presence across Africa, the continent could serve as a forward base from which China could project power towards North America and Europe.

Chinese state-owned entities have committed $29.9 billion to finance 123 projects to expand or construct 78 ports in 48 countries from 2000-2021 active or completed projects. India must be cautious about setting of its new naval base at Ream inGulf of Thailand in Cambodia. American analysts have warned that this new naval base can change the power equations in the Indo-Pacific. As this base is close to the Malacca Strait directly poses threat to India. If this is completed and fully operational Beijing, would have clearly strategic advantage in the world through Indo-Pacific routes. So, China has taken the advantage of power-game with India to encircle each other. We must think other options.

Global Strategic Scenario

The US has 750 military bases in 80 foreign countries UK has 145 and Russia has at least 30-40 overseas military bases and the rest of the world’s military combined are likely to control 50-60 bases in the world and India is the new entrant. However, China controls 90 ports worldwide which will be used for PLAN’s refueling, logistics and replenishment purposes.  This could weaken the dominance of the United States and relegate Europe to the sidelines of transnational affairs.

Australia strengthened its navy and doubled its fleet of major warships and submarines. Some of its warships will be armed with deadly ‘Tomahawk Cruise Missiles’ that can strike deep inside the enemy territory. Australia will also receive the ‘Ohio-Class’ nuclear submarines from the US under the AUKUS Treaty partnership. Australian Defence Minister Richard Marlesaddressed this expansion is the largest naval force after World War II and this expansion comes in response to the military buildup of China and Russia. Indian navy is not in any scene of global militarisation index, it is not in the list of top 20 per cent of militarisation in the world.

Seeing the importance of the matter and the new militarisationof Chinese naval bases the US has now again announced to renew its Subic Naval base and Clark Airbase which was closed after the Cold War ended in 1992. The 1951 Mutual Defence Agreement between the US and Philippines  agreed also to new bases of Antonio Bautista Air Base, Lumbia Air Base and Benito Air Base.

Recently, the US Department of Defence (DoD)  published its National Defence Industrial Strategy (NDIS) in Jan 2024 report sees China’s economic rise and military production capabilities as a threat to the world order as Russia indulges in the Ukraine war. It will also see India as a strategic partner in the coming complexities.

Implications of Russo-Chinese Partnership

Time will tell how far the Russian-Chinese “friendship without limits” can go in the susceptible area of nuclear submarine production, but it is safe to assume China would be highly interested in catching up with Russia’s remaining technological advantages and willing to use its political and economic levers to obtain Russia’s submarine technology secrets. Indian Authorities noted all these and ignoring Russia is not good in the interests of India.


China is expanding its footprints in the Indian Ocean Region, Indo-Pacific and even the Atlantic through its ‘Debt Trap Diplomacy and String of Pearls Strategy’ in response India’s Diamond Necklace Policy must continue to fulfill its objectives, not to stop and find new habitats to contain China. Indian navy needs permanent naval bases. If we want to fulfill our strategic interests permanent naval bases are essentials rather than that Memorandom of Understanding’ of access to Changi, Sabang, Duqm and Chabahar ports etc.

Although, making of naval base ‘INS Jatayu’ at Aggati and Minicoy islands in Lakshadweep is good but it is in our own maritime territory and this is not enough. Due to present global strategic scenario, to secure our trade routes and maritime interests throughout the world overseas naval bases in other parts of the world is need of the hour. As we don’t need any war but the Indian Navy must show its muscle power to its adversaries.  So we need ports and naval bases to secure our trade routes and maritime interests.

“If we protect ourselves inwardly it will not intimidate the enemy but if we will aggressive outwardly then it will sure intimidate the enemy”

We can move our attention towards Asia, Oceania, South America and Africa. The problems are coming in setting up of new naval bases in the Madagascar, Maldives, and Seychelles‘s Assumptions islands are another major setback. But, the Indian war-planners don’t give up and try to find other ways either psychologically, financially or diplomatically. It must be done in any way.


1.David Thomson, “Europe Since Napoleon”, Penguin Books Ltd., Hammond worth, Middlesex, England, Copyright , printed in 1957, Chapter 3.

2. Alastair GaleEra of Total U.S. Submarine Dominance Over China Is Ending, The Wall Street Journal, November 20, 2023.

3. Command and Control in US Naval Competition with China, by Kimberly Jackson, Andrew Scobell, Stephen Webber, Logan Ma, Rand Corporation, USA. RRA127-1.html

4. Ritu Sharma, “China’s highly ‘secretive submarine’ Tech to be Decoded with export To Pak, B’Desh, Thailand-US Report” The Eurasian Times, October 4, 2023.

5.  Vijai Inder R. Thakur, “Once Pride of India, Russia Scraps ‘INS Chakra’ Nuclear Submarine; Navy Goes ‘1 STEP FORWARD 2 Steps Back” The Eurasian Times, November 16, 2023.

6. While the world watched China, India quietly built a naval base in Africa

7. Shubhajit Roy, “India-Maldives ties: Amid row, why the two countries need each other and what is at stake,” The Indian Express, Jan 11, 2024.

8. TOI World Desk, With eye on China Australia to build biggest Navy since World War II, The Times of India, February 20,2024.

9. Shishir Gupta, “Why the proposed military base at Minicoy Islands will be a game-changer, The Hindustan Times, Jan 10, 2024.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Rahul Dev

is a Senior Assistant in the Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar.

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