China Surreptitiously Builds Military Footprint In UAE
China's ambitions to establish a military footprint in the oil-rich region appear to have taken a step closer to becoming a reality. Satellite images emerged last week suggesting that China was building a multi-storey military facility in the UAE port of Khalifa. According to a report in the Wall Street journal, Under the pressure of the US, the UAE subsequently halted the project and claimed that it did not know about China's military infrastructure development.
The UAE is regional hub for Chinese investment through the Belt and Road initiative. Other projects under the BRI are China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) from Gwadar and Karachi in Pakistan, to hambantota in Sri Lanka. China has established a presence at key points in the Indian Ocean region (IOR) through the promise of economic and infrastructure partnerships. As in the UAE, these locations could be used - covertly or overtly and gradually - for military purposes.
As China becomes increasingly confident and ambitious about realising the the Chines dream of achieving national rejuvenation, it believes it naturally needs to pursue global power and global influence to go along with its expanding economic presence in the world. Analysts also suggest that such a construction would still illustrate China's soft power projections abroad - a similar, perception of Beijing's logistical supply base in Djibouti. Any plan for a strategic troop deployment by China in a Gulf base would be plainly futile as it would be circled by a network of bigger and more sophisticated American military bases on all form.
The Khalifa port incident makes it clear that even India's closet friends have to do business with China, and the Beijing will leverage its economic might for strategic advantage. New Delhi cannot compete on an equal footing with Beijing when it comes to economics resources. It must therefore, use the leverage and resources it has in its immediate neighborhood as well as work with other concerned powers - such as members of the Quad - to ensure a rule-based order in the IOR and beyond.