The String of Pearls vs The Iron Curtain; by Anirudh Ramakrishna Phadke

China’s rapid economic development over the course of the last quarter century has been heavily dependent on foreign sources of energy, its power sources are imported up to 70% from other countries. Hence China started to concentrate on the ways and means to get the same to its Mainland to sustain its growth in the future. So, It concentrated in the main sea lines  that link the China’s mainland with ports throughout the Middle East and coasts of Africa. In the mean time Indian Navy felt it is its responsibility to ensure stability in the Indian Ocean Rim, which irks the Chinese as they view the Indian Ocean as their life line for trade and energy. China has consistently tried to establish its presence in these areas by creating or involving itself in mega infrastructure project, economic corridor development or creating suitable facilities in the region.

The term String of Pearls first used in the year 2005 as a geopolitical concept in an internal US Department of Defense report, “Energy Futures in Asia”. The term is also widely used in India’s geopolitical and foreign policy narratives to highlight India’s concerns over massive Chinese Belt and Road Initiative projects across southern Asia. The formation of Quadrilateral Security Dialogue  consisting of USA, Japan, Australia and India, is a direct result of China’s assertive foreign and security policy in the Indo-Pacific region. The emergence of the String of Pearls is indicative of China’s growing geopolitical influence through concerted efforts to increase access to ports and airfields, expand and modernize military forces, and foster stronger diplomatic relationships with trading partners.

The previous Indian governments have taken the string of pearls in the diplomatic ways. But our current Prime Minister Mr. Narendra modi has taken this issue in its real sense and has started developing fitting replays. The reply is called as IRON CURTAIN by the Chinese people.



The China has started the operation in Bangladesh with constructing a port near cox bazaar. Even they have done the feasibility report and the financials for the project and are ready to go for a deep funding for the project. The port was at Sonardia. If it is constructed it would have brought the Chinese presence near Andaman and Nicobar islands.  This port Sonardia is forming part of the string of pearls which is the china’s wish. The Bangladesh government has decided against the project as the relationship with the New Delhi is on an upswing.  So, the Sonardia port project was dropped and a new port project was gained momentum from the year 2014. The port is called Payra seaport. A Payra Seaport authority has been formed for its development.

New Delhi has expressed interest in developing the neighbour’s newest deep sea port; Payra. It’s a big move by India. Indian companies have started showing interest towards the Payra seaport. The Chinese effect has been nullified here.


Srilanka has given an option to China to build a port and an airport when Mr. Rajapakshe was the premier of Srilanka. That is how Hambantota seaport and the airport have developed. After the Lankan government‘s guard change the scenario also has changed and the debt for the port and the airport has piled up, whereas there is no commercial feasibility for the projects. China has different plans for Hambantota.

The Lanka government which has been influenced by the Chinese government previously to get port and airport has now wish take over the operation of the port only  and left the international airport to the Lankan government and the loan also has to be repaid by the Lankan government. As this Seaport is also forming part of the Chinese operation India wish to take the international airport as a strategy. India is proposing to spend around US$300 million to buy out Sri Lanka’s debt to China in return for a 40-year lease over Hambantota airport. But India’s future plans for the airport are hazy. Control over Hambantota airport will give India considerable control over how the port is used which is strategically located within 18 Km from Hambantota seaport.


Since Pakistan is a under developing country and already has lost its favored nation status with USA, because of its continuous support to the Muslim terrorists. Hence, it started to look for an ally and paired with China. Both countries is emerged as a strong all weather allies.

The development of Gwadar Port is a key element of the greater China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). With Pakistan’s two other major ports operating near capacity with no room for expansion, projects in Gwadar promise to eventually handle one million tons of cargo annually, while also providing significant industrial, oil, and transportation infrastructure.  The only concern for Pakistan is the growing debt trap created by the project. The prospect of the Chinese Navy in Gwadar poses greater security questions, as it forms another link in China’s efforts to expand its maritime presence in the Indo-Pacific region. Gwadar has strategic importance for China as 60% of its crude oil comes from Gulf countries that are close to the port.

India is set to counter the Chinese takeover of Pakistan’s Gwadar port by developing the Chabahar port in Iran. It is only 76 km from Chabahar across the border with Iran. The port will not only help New Delhi counter Beijing’s presence but also boost India’s trade and investment ties with landlocked Afghanistan and central Asia by providing it with a transit route to the region (Pakistan does not allow Indian goods to pass through its territory). India, Iran and Afghanistan have already signed an agreement to give Indian goods heading for central Asia and Afghanistan preferential treatment and tariff reductions at Chabahar. Admiral Arun Prakash, former Indian naval chief, wrote recently, “India’s recent agreement with Oman providing access, for ‘military use and logistical support’ in the new Port of AL Duqm, has raised hopes that India is, belatedly, strengthening its maritime posture in the Indian Ocean Region.


The China has  has entered the Burma with the prenotion that it is going to help the Burma government in the Rohingya refugee crisis and the situation in Rakhine have provided an opportunity for China to try to expand its strategic partnership with Myanmar by offering to broker a deal with Bangladesh and create economic projects in the disturbed zone. China recently proposed to build an economic corridor with Myanmar through Rakhine, which Chinese experts say would allow the country access to the Indian Ocean. Rakhine will also be transit for the $1.5 b oil pipeline from Bay of Bengal to China. 
India’s military exercise with Myanmar and move to deliver relief material for displaced people in Rakhine state are in keeping with its strategic interests of expanding relations with the neighbouring country at a time when China is seeking to extend its influence in the region. India has already established in Burma and has built a port. It created the Kaladan multimodal project with the port connectivity of Sittwe.  The $484-m Kaladan project plans to connect Sittwe port with Mizoram through multimodal means. The port is ready for use and work is on for the road connectivity segment of the project. 


The country which is neighboring the China is having the dispute for the parcel Islands. The increasing naval presence of china in the South China Sea nearing the Vietnam has alarmed the Vietnam.

Vietnam wish to have a good relationship with India, which is equally a dominant player in the INDO PACIFIC region. So, the Vietnam has done the following favors to India.  Vietnam renews Indian oil deal in tense South China Sea. Vietnam granted Indian oil firm ONGC Videsh a two-year extension to explore oil block 128. A senior official of ONGC Videsh, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter, said interest in the block was strategic rather than commercial, given that oil development there was seen as high-risk with only moderate potential. “Vietnam also wants us to be there because of China’s interventions in the South China Sea,” the official said.

There is a rumor that India has broken into the Vietnam defense market and has dialogue for giving the highly sophisticated Brohmos missile defense system to Vietnam.

Master Stroke – India to build satellite tracking station in Vietnam that offers eye on China

India will set up a satellite tracking and imaging centre in southern Vietnam that will give Hanoi access to pictures from Indian earth observation satellites that cover the region, including China and the South China Sea, Indian officials said.

Ending Note

The STRING OF PEARLS has been tied by the china around the neck of the India in the Bay of Bengal, Arabian Sea, and Indian Ocean, in various countries like Bangladesh, Burma, Srilanka, Pakistan which has been done with a long term vision. India as usual slowly and effectively raised her IRON CURTAIN over the area and defending the every action taken by China.

Note: The above article was delivered in form of oral/visual presentation by the writer on March 8th, 2019 at a national seminar organised by Department of Defence and Strategic Studies, University of Madras.

%d bloggers like this: