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India And Its Chinese Choker

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By Nitum Jain:

The Dragon and the Tiger have always been circling each other for years, sniffing, strategizing, waiting for the other to make a mistake, preparing to bare claws and leap. China has taken the step and made the encircling literal.

The two Asian titans have never seen eye to eye despite their very many similarities; they both happen to be the most populous countries in the world, both countries have their cultural foundations much deep-rooted and old, they have both suffered colonialism and had even won their freedom within years of each other, and today both India and China are economies that are expanding rapidly despite the global meltdown. Yet noting the recent developments, peace is a far-fetched thought between them.

During the cold war, the Department of Defense of the United States of America had devised a plan to surround Soviet Russia by creating a ring of allies around the country with the use of international treaties like NATO and SEATO. China has taken a leaf out of their book and has built ports around India and is connecting roads to circumvent India’s growing sea power.

Christopher J. Pehrson authored a book, ‘String of Pearls: Meeting the challenge of China’s rising power across the Asian littoral’ on this latest Chinese maneuver. The String of Pearls is described here as the “manifestation of China’s rising geopolitical influence through efforts to increase access to ports and airfields, develop special diplomatic relationships and modernize military forces that extend from the South China Sea through the Strait of Malacca, across the Indian Ocean, and on to the Arabian Gulf.”

Simply put, China’s strategy is setting up ports in India’s neighbouring countries and thus controlling vital sea-lanes of communication between the Indian and Pacific Oceans by creating this circuit of listening posts, special naval arrangements and total access to all ports.

It is belligerently pursuing its goal of muscling into the waters of the Indian Ocean, which India has always considered its own, and become closer to its ultimate aim of becoming the super power of the 21st century. The Chinese started by building ports in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar; and also have shown interest in developing naval and commercial links with the Maldives, Seychelles, Mauritius and Madagascar.

Such an action definitely raises the prospect of confrontation between the nations someday as the region that China is so hell-bent on monopolizing is too important for the Gulf States as a trading route for oil (another plus for China as their venture is lucrative as well). Not only India, this may also bring China at loggerheads with the USA who have long held sway over the waters. Yet the country is gung-ho about it’s pearls, without a care of the West.

India shares its borders with Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Nepal besides China and though China maintains that it is building its ports and the pipelines to protect its oil from piracy and strengthen its trade, the ports themselves are resent a very conspicuous picture as they were built one after the other in almost ALL of India’s main neighbours. Taking a look at how eagerly China acquired all the locations where they were built, it is hard not to discern the very obvious pattern: the infamous String of Pearls.


Myanmar lies to the east of India and southwest to China. To the Dragon it is strategically important as a ‘landridge’ since the Chinese heads plan to use it for the long-term motive to reach the Indian Ocean via the Coco Island which belong to Myanmar and are approximately 30 kilometres away from India’s Andaman Islands. China is expected to achieve world-class blue water Navy status by the year 2050.

In lieu of Myanmar’s compliance, China supplied Myanmar with arms (jet fighters, tanks, naval ships, etc.), agreed to train its air force, military and army

Personnel and also readily provided Myanmar with economic aid and investments for construction of basic infrastructure, such as dams, bridges, roads and ports as well as for industrial projects.

BANGLADESH- Chittagong Port

Bangladeshi PM Sheikh Hasina had structured a slew of agreements with India in January this year, among the many was an important one where India had offered to extend a $1 billion credit to Bangladesh for 14 infrastructural projects. Lapse by the Indian government, where the Finance Minister took eight months to come down to Bangladesh and operationalise the project, and the new changes made in the offer where the interest rates climbed from 1% to 1.75%, shocked Dhaka. So it was taken that unless India relaxes its trade barriers to Bangladeshi output, it will be accused of manipulating the transit rights for its own benefit.

Meanwhile, China conveniently moved into the delay gap on projects like the Chittagong Port, refurbishing it mostly out of its own pocket and also aided in the construction of the second Padma Bridge. It is pushing several Memorandums of Understanding on road links via Myanmar and railway links connecting the capitals of both nations (Beijing and Dhaka). All this it presents as a $2.2 billion package on Infrastructure, apparently out of good faith.

PAKISTAN- Gwadar Port

Pakistan identified Gwadar as a port site as early as in 1964. However it took 37 years to make it a reality and that was also done only when China offered to help in the construction and development of this deep-sea port.

This particular port is perhaps of the most importance to China and the most dangerous to India, not only does it provides China with a very prosperous oil trade but is also a “listening post” where it can “monitor US naval activity in the Persian Gulf, Indian activity in the Arabian Sea and future US-Indian maritime cooperation in the Indian Ocean”. A recent report by defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton for the Pentagon notes that China has already installed electronic eavesdropping posts at the Pakistani port, which are monitoring maritime traffic through the Strait of Hormuz and the Arabian Sea.

SRI LANKA- Hambantota Port

Hambantota Port is being built on the southern coast of Sri Lanka, in an area that is merely ten miles from one of the world’s busiest shipping routes. Costing a whopping $1 billion, this port is to be used as a refueling and docking station for China’s Navy as it patrols the Indian Ocean and protects China’s supplies of Saudi oil. Sri Lanka had consented to this plan in March 2007 and thereon it has been supplied with all the aid, arms and diplomatic support it needs to defeat the LTTE problem within its borders.

These include a transaction of huge quantities of weapons to Colombo last year and boosting financial aid almost five times to $1 billion. China soon took the role of the top donor to this island country with its Jian-7 fighter jets, anti-aircraft guns and JY-11 3D air surveillance radars. It came to Colombo’s rescue when the US cut direct help to Sri Lanka because of its dismal human rights record. It all boils down to the fact that the Chinese are courting Sri Lanka because of its location in the Indian Ocean — with the additional bonus of a vital international passageway for trade and oil.


Both the countries, though the smallest neighbours, haven’t yet taken sides or succumbed to persuasion.

In Nepal, both India and China have been trying to woo the country to their sides; India announced a plan early this year to spend $361 million over the next several years to develop roads and rail links in the region while China too came up with a strategy to lure Nepal by increasing its annual aid by 50% to about $22 million.

While in Bhutan, over the past six months the Chinese have increasingly made inroads in the strategically important area which precariously close to India’s “chicken’s neck” – the vulnerable Siliguri Corridor which links the main part of India to its farthest north-eastern states. Such incursions have caused much alarm to India and Bhutan.

There is a strong feeling that Bhutan and Nepal are becoming buffer states. They are definitely prone to becoming pawns in a big game between the two Asian giants.

China has given its explanations but there is no Free Press to pry further and inform every one of this country’s true intentions. The world and the affected countries have taken to speculations and the most plausible one has raised alarm throughout South Asia; China is proving to be a massive threat but no action can be taken based on pure conjecture. The country and its intentions are cloaked with secrecy and the supposed façade of self-development and integrity remains impervious to our prods. “Villainy may wear many masks but none as dangerous as the mask of virtue” Let’s hope that better sense prevails. Peace!

The writer is a Trainee Editor with Youth Ki Awaaz and also a student of Delhi University.

Related and recommended: India Runs On Thin Ice.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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