BEIJING: The Chinese navy has conducted intense sea drills in the eastern section of the Indian Ocean at a time when the Maldives, an Indian Ocean nation, is undergoing a serious political crisis.
China’s official media has used the opportunity to suggest the drill was connected to the Maldives situation and a call from the Maldivian opposition for Indian military involvement to save democracy in the country. Beijing resents any Indian involvement while it is expanding its own influence over Male.
But experts suggest the Chinese sea drills began in late January and were focused on the South China Sea controversy. Chinese vessels touched only a small part of the eastern Indian Ocean near Australia and stayed in the area for a few days during the sea drills.
In fact, the sea drills evoked strong resentment among the opposition in the Philippines which said China was trying to use it to capture South China Sea areas claimed by Manila.
Whether this could be regarded as sending warships into the Indian Ocean could be debated but the effort was not related to the Maldives situation. The Chinese media is giving the impression that the drills were related to the political situation in Male in what appears to be an attempt at psychological warfare.
The Chinese theory also got some backing from an Australian expert who said the sea drills have been conducted, in part, with an eye on India.
“They’re there to keep India away from Beijing’s interests in the strife-torn Maldives Islands,” an Australian website quoted Peter Jennings of the Australian Policy Institute as saying.
“Sending warships to operate off the Maldives is a new and concerning development because it shows that China is trying to exercise influence over a small state more usually within India’s strategic view. New Delhi will read this as a worrying move. It will intensify strategic competition and increase mistrust between China and India,” he was quoted saying by the website news.com.au.
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