The Chabahar Port in Iran is not the only strategic measure India is taking to strengthen its diplomatic ties in Asia and, at the same time, counter China which is building the Gwadar Port in Pakistan.
While the Chabahar Port is significant because of a greater economic interest to India, Iran and Afghanistan, it won’t be enough to break the ‘string of pearls’ Beijing is weaving at a rapid pace.
So the Indian Government has shown a very deep interest in building the Payra Port in Bangladesh.
According to reports, Union Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari said that India Ports Global, the joint venture between state-run JNPT and Kandla Port for overseas ports, has shown interest in the ‘expressions of interest’ Bangladesh floated for building Payra Port.
Gadkari said that both the Indian Foreign Ministry and their Bangladeshi counterpart are holding talks on the same.
“Dhaka also wants us. We have sent a team there for studies,” Gadkari said.
Thankfully, a favourable Awami League government led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has eased New Delhi’s efforts.
In February, Beijing had approached Dhaka with a proposal to build the same port. It was aligned to China’s designs in Sri Lanka, where it is already developing a port.
But Bangladesh did not accept the offer and decided to award the deal to New Delhi.
Once the port is constructed, it would improve Bangladesh’s economic interests besides helping India’s strategic interests tremendously.
“The Shipping Ministry is closely following the developments in regard to the Payra port so as to secure our national and strategic interests,” a release by the ministry read.
The plan for Payra is being seen as an outcome of the Narendra Modi government’s ‘Act East’ policy, as part of which increased attention is being given to countries in Southeast Asia, especially those not in the ‘good books’ of China.
China’s ‘string of pearls’ is a strategic objective of Beijing to reduce India’s influence in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). But Southeast Asian countries are themselves standing up to China’s aggressive South China Sea policy.
As part of its counterstrategy, the Indian Government is planning to sell BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles to Vietnam despite Beijing’s objections.