China and India jockey for their African positions

In recent years, the Western Indian Ocean region of Africa, which includes Mauritius, Seychelles and Maldives, has seen increased Indian and Chinese economic and military competition.

With its geographic proximity, and historical and cultural ties, India has long had dominance in the region, but it is slowly losing out to China.

While these island nations usually conjure images of idyllic vacations, they are strategically located, with two-thirds of the world’s oil shipments, a third of bulk cargo and one-half of all shipping-container traffic going through the Indian Ocean.

Access to energy resources — such as oil and natural gas — are driving security agendas in both China and India.

The changing dynamics also highlight the difference between each country’s Africa strategy.

India’s involvement in the continent has focused on private enterprise, and commercial and cultural relations, while China has focused on resources, building infrastructure and making unilateral loans to governments.

China has also recently established a naval base in Djibouti, as part of its plan to create a “string of pearls” network of Chinese military and commercial bases from China to Port Sudan along with Indian Ocean coast.

And in 2017, China’s trade with African countries was nearly three times that of India’s.

African countries along the Indian Ocean are responding to these efforts differently.

Mauritius is maintaining economic links with China and political and security links to India, Seychelles is explicitly neutral, and a new government in the Maldives wants to reverse the tilt toward China and return it toward India.

Sources: Institute for Security Studies (NGO), Quartz, The Wire (India)

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