The Financial Times published the following analysis:
Hambantota, in southern Sri Lanka, was a sleepy seaside village devastated by the 2004 tsunami. Famous for salt flats and a searing climate, it’s most celebrated building was a British-built watchtower, now home to a fisheries museum.
Gwadar, likewise, until seven years ago, was a fishing town in Baluchistan on Pakistan’s south-western shoreline. An enclave on the Arabian Sea given to Islamabad by the Aga Khan, it was not much thought of as a key staging point between central Asia and the Gulf.
Today these little-known towns are fast emerging on to a bigger political and economic map thanks to Chinese finance and engineering, which is upgrading their ports into world-class facilities. They are part of China’s so-called “string of pearls” – the ports, staging posts and hubs that analysts say describe expanding Chinese interests and diplomatic initiatives in south Asia. The outreach – or, to some, apparent encirclement – is underpinned by infrastructure projects, arms supplies, energy routes and diplomatic protection.
Nowhere is this development causing more disquiet than in India. As energy dumps and refineries, jetties and gantries emerge on neighbouring shores, New Delhi fears that Beijing is extending its power to control shipping lanes in the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea – waves that it prefers to rule. The moves have the potential to intensify the competition – and scramble for resources – between the world’s fastest-growing big economies, both nuclear-armed powers.