‘Indian Ocean not India’s backyard’: PLA

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July 1, 2015

BEIJING – The Indian Ocean (IO) region is not India’s “backyard”, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) has said, adding that upholding this perception has the potential to trigger clashes in the region.

July 1, 2015

BEIJING – The Indian Ocean (IO) region is not India’s “backyard”, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) has said, adding that upholding this perception has the potential to trigger clashes in the region.

People's Liberation Army (PLA) marines march at a PLA naval base in Hong Kong, China July 1, 2015 (Reuters Photo)

China, however, does recognize New Delhi’s role in having a stabilizing role in the region, both in the IO and South Asian region, a senior officer from the largest armed forces in the world said.

The IO region is very important to China as well as to other countries as it is an important channel for international trade and that is why it is understandable why China wants relevant navigational rights through it, Senior Captain Zhao Yi, associate professor of the Institute of Strategy in China's National Defence University, told a group of Indian journalists.

“The word backyard is not very appropriate to use for an open sea and international areas of sea,” Zhao said, adding:  “I admit geographically speaking India has a special role to play in stabilising Indian Ocean and the South Asian region”

Zhao was answering queries on how China plans to allay Indian fears over the PLA navy’s increasing ship and submarine forays into the IO region.

Zhao quoted an US scholar who has said that the IO region was likely to be a focus region and at the epicenter of maritime clashes in the 21st century.

“This scholar indicated that there would be severe clashes in the IO areas. I did not agree with him. But if someone views (the region) as its backyard, I am afraid this possibility (of clashes) cannot be eliminated,” Zhao said.

Questions about PLA navy’s maritime strategies were raised in the context of Chinese submarines visiting Sri Lanka and Pakistan recently.

But the officers expectedly played down India’s concerns.

“The Chinese government has been very prudent in handling PLA navy's navigation to the IO.  Most of time our submarines go to Indian Ocean, we diplomatically inform our neighboring countries. We should enhance cooperation in order to enhance mutual trust at the level of military and government,” Zhang Wei, researcher with the PLA Navy Academic Institute, said.

Zhang said Chinese navy ships have been visiting countries in the region like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan since 1985

Besides enhancing bilateral relations, the navy’s focus is to protect the security of maritime trade routes against piracy.

“The PLA navy provided escort services to over 6,000 ships in Gulf of Aden half of them were foreign vessels,” she said.

"So I do not agree that the presence of Chinese naval ship is expansion of the Chinese military," Zhang said.


Courtesy: HT