Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative – Brief June 23, 2015


Ports & Power
This week, AMTI has released in-depth analysis on ports and agreements around the Indian Ocean. The Indian Ocean is poised to become a major variable in Asia-Pacific maritime affairs. How are major powers interacting within the Indian Ocean? View AMTI’s interactive map Ports & Power in the Indian Ocean—and visit the AMTI website for more information. Read on for expert analysis.
Expert Analysis

India’s Maritime Acts in the East
Since the middle of May, four vessels of the Indian Navy’s Eastern Fleet, including some of its most advanced indigenous ships, have plied the waters of Southeast Asia and Australia, conducting exercises with partners and making port calls in Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and Australia. Some, not least the Indian government, have held up the deployment as an embodiment of India’s commitment to its new “Act East Policy.” While this may be a fair characterization of the mission’s objectives, it is important to recognize that neither the deployment nor sentiment behind the policy is unprecedented. In doing so, what is truly new – the degree to which India is “Acting East” in the maritime domain – can be more fully appreciated. [Read more from Scott Cheney-Peters] 

Dragon Tracks: Emerging Chinese Access Points in the Indian Ocean Region
With six-plus-years of Chinese Gulf of Aden anti-piracy operations and China’s first submarine deployments to the Indian Ocean, considering possible support facilities for the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) isn’t just for those theorizing a “String of Pearls” anymore. The U.S. Department of Defense itself forecasts that within the coming decade Beijing will establish one or more facilities capable of providing significant, if still limited, logistical support. The IOR is attracting increasing Chinese and American attention, with the latest U.S. Maritime Strategy referring to the “Indo-Asia-Pacific” and the previous commander of the U.S. Pacific Command describing its area of operations extending “from Hollywood to Bollywood.” With IOR geopolitics thus receiving growing outside attention, where China will ultimately locate its naval logistics points is an increasingly important question.   [Read more from Andrew S. Erickson and Gabriel Collins] 

Stirred but Not Shaken: Sri Lanka’s Rebalancing Act
Shortly after President Maithripala Sirisena’s surprise victory in Sri Lanka’s January Presidential election, the new leader suspended one of the largest Chinese-led infrastructure investments in the country—the $1.5 billion Colombo Port City—and caught the Chinese government off guard. Seemingly in denial, Chinese officials and the media echo chamber downplayed this move as a minor speed bump in the relationship.  Three months later, however, the project remains suspended and its fate hangs in the balance as a review committee weighs concerns over Sri Lanka’s environment, rule of law, and sovereignty. [Read more from Sameer Lalwani] 

Modi and the Indian Ocean: Restoring India’s Sphere of Influence
On a March 2015 trip to Seychelles and Mauritius, Narendra Modi outlined a bold framework that overturned the political approach that India had taken towards the Indian Ocean for half a century.  Beginning in the late 1960s, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi asked all major powers to withdraw from the Indian Ocean out of concern for great power rivalry. This approach fit with India’s self-perception as a non-aligned and Third World state, and its desire to be economically self reliant and to distance itself from the British Raj, which had long been the central security provider in the Indian Ocean. [Read more from C. Raja Mohan] 

Views from India’s Smaller Neighbors
India’s smaller maritime neighbors are paying close attention as New Delhi consolidates the country’s ambitions in the Indian Ocean. While bolstering its own naval and maritime capabilities, India has actively taken steps to cement partnerships with most of these smaller neighbors in recent years and continues to do so under the Narendra Modi administration. On balance, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives, and Myanmar, as well as island nations further west in the Indian Ocean—i.e., Mauritius and Seychelles—benefit from the growth in Indian naval power in considerable ways. At the same time, these countries will occasionally find difficulty in navigating independent policy paths when they are at odds with India’s perspectives. [Read more from Nilanthi Samaranayake] 
Featured Imagery

 


Mischief Reef – June 10, 2015
As of June 10, 2015, extensive dredging was still underway at Mischief Reef, as the pictures display. The northern, western, and southern landmasses constructed in the early Spring of 2015 have been connected and continue to expand and be reinforced with seawalls now ringing the reclaimed reef. In the middle of the feature, dozens of dredgers and support craft transit the inner harbor. Reclamation is most active along the northeastern rim of the reef, newly reclaimed since AMTI last released photos of Mischief Reef in March. New structures and construction equipment are visible along the northern bank of the reef. At the southern facility, a seawall is being constructed. AMTI assesses that 5,420,000 square meters of land have been reclaimed at Mischief Reef as of June 10, 2015.

Subi Reef – June 5, 2015
Subi reef has changed dramatically in the last few months. The southern, western, and northern edges of the reef have been reclaimed and an access channel to the inner harbor has been cut out. Most of the reclaimed reef’s infrastructure has been built out on the southwestern landmass. Like Mischief reef, the inner harbor is transited by dozens of support craft with active dredgers operating to the north and south of the reef. A naval vessel is visible to the west of the reef. To the east one dredger can be seen expanding the entrance to the reef. Construction is ongoing with two cement plants being built along the western bank and seawalls now extending across the length of the reclaimed land. AMTI assesses that 3,950,000 square meters of land have been reclaimed at Subi Reef as of June 10, 2015.

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