Washington: Aligning with India’s posture, a top American general on Wednesday said China’s access to Pakistan’s Gwadar Port has the potential to increase Beijing’s strategic presence in the Indian Ocean.
General Joseph Votel, Commander of the US Central Command, said China was pursuing long-term, steady economic growth that bolsters its international influence and access to energy resources.
“Its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which includes the China Pakistan-Economic Corridor (CPEC), could serve as a stabilising, profit-generating project in the region, but could also improve China’s military posture,” he told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a Congressional hearing.
Votel said the collection of infrastructure projects provides China access to the Gwadar Port in Pakistan which has the potential to increase its strategic presence in the Indian Ocean. India has been raising the same concern repeatedly.
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) focuses on improving connectivity and cooperation among Asian countries, Africa, China and Europe.
India is opposed to the BRI as it includes the CPEC which transverses through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
“China also recently established its first overseas military base adjacent to the Bab al Mandeb (BAM) in Djibouti. While Beijing claims both locations support peacekeeping and humanitarian operations, the new military base and port allow China to project forces more permanently within the region and influence strategically valuable trade waterways,” Votel said.
China, Votel said, also seeks to increase its economic and diplomatic cooperation with Iran. PTI