Responding to concerns from India and the West about China's plan of building ports in South Asia, Zhang Yan, the Chinese ambassador to India, said in a luncheon held by the Asian Association in Hong Kong on June 18 that "India is our partner. We never intend to encircle India as it does not abide by the interest of the Chinese people."
"China is not attempting to control shipping lanes in the Indian Ocean. Saying China is taking an encirclement policy is invalid," he said.
Agence France Presse reported that thousands of ships, fully loaded with goods and under Chinese flags, traverse the Indian Ocean to bring the cargo to the European market every year. Ambassador Zhang stated that China does not protect the commercial sea route with military forces, nor does it intend to.
"There's no need to shelter our business ships by sending warships there," he said.
Based on this report, India was suspicions of China's decision to build ports in Burma, Pakistan and Sri Lanka because the government believed it was an attempt by China to further control this vital shipping route. Many believe that mistrust about China in India has been on the rise over the last few years, and the border issue is still a problem for the two nations.
Various countries are suspicious of China's decision to set up harbors abroad, even though China has repeatedly declared that the ports are only for commerce. A 2004 report from the Pentagon in the United States described them as "the pearl necklace of China in the Indian Ocean," while the commander of Indian navy alleged in January this year that "every port is just a pearl embedded in the belt of the Chinese navy."
The West has long used China's construction of seaports in South Asia to inflame the relationship between China and India. The Associated Press published an article on June 6 that said China was aiding countries around the Indian Ocean to help build the ports, which India had tried to prevent. Jane's Defense Weekly even quoted from Rahul Bedi, an expert in South Asian studies, who said that the focus of India has been shifted to China, away from its traditional enemy Pakistan.
(China.org.cn by Hou Xiaoying June 20, 2008)