China has sent its troops to its first foreign Naval base in Djibouti. On Wednesday, China sent its military personnel on several naval ships that departed from Zhanjiang in southern China’s Guangdong Province.
This is a major step that China has taken to ensure its presence in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). The base will be used to perform missions like peace-keeping, escorting and providing humanitarian aid to Africa and West Asia. It will also ensure performance of overseas tasks like military cooperation, joint exercises, protecting Chinese personnel and interests and maintaining security of international seaways.
China has leased the port for an initial 10-year period and will pay $20 million yearly rental to the Djibouti government. The base was constructed last year and is very close to Camp Lemonnier, the only permanent US base in Africa since 2002. Apart from these two nations, Djibouti also hosts troops from France and Japan on its territory.
The US government said this move reflects China’s going influence in the region while the Chinese officials asserted that China is not seeking to expand its military base into other countries. It is believed that China wants to explore and exploit Africa’s natural resources and wants to control new, open markets and hence has taken this step.
The new naval base of China in Djibouti is being taken as a direct threat to US and India. The close proximity to Camp Lemmonier has raised several eyebrows in Washington.
Political analyst Lai Yueqian commented:
“The base can be used to pin down the United States and any US-led organisations. If the US wants to intervene against China’s interests, they will have to think carefully, because China will use their military to protect their citizens and their property.
The base is also a threat to India. This move has stepped up the influence game in the IOR, which India curently controls. China has been busy building new ports in Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh to encircle India.