Dragon Ready To Construct A Canal
And now…… China has started concentrating on the Andaman Sea. Currently, the Chinese warships cross the Strait of Malacca to reach the southernmost point of India. However, the Asian powerhouse plans to build a 120km mega canal through Thailand that would slash 1,200km off the route Chinese warships now take to reach South Asian ports. The move will dramatically enhance Beijing’s ability to project power in future Indian Ocean wars. The top political leadership in Beijing recently discussed the issue with Prime Minister of Thailand Prayut Chan-o-cha and the Thai premier ordered his country’s National Security Council to examine the feasibility of proposals to build the mega canal.
Defence experts believe that the narrow Malacca Strait – situated between Malaysia and Indonesia – is geo-strategically very important. Around 84,000 vessels pass through the Malacca Strait every year now-a-days! According to a global survey, the number may soon touch 140,000!
The Strait of Malacca has the capacity to allow 122,000 ships to transit through it in a year. As a result, it becomes necessary for China to find alternate sea routes to reach one end of South Asia from another. Beijing has not only proposed Bangkok to build the canal, but also committed USD 30 billion for the construction of the proposed ‘Kra Canal’, first conceived of almost 350 years ago. According to sources close to the Thai government, Longhao – the Chinese construction company involved in the controversial island-building project in the South China Sea – will be asked to build the canal.
Defence experts are of the opinion that the Chinese ships can easily enter the Andaman Sea through the proposed canal in the coming years as the distance between China Sea and Andaman Sea will be reduced by 1,200km. Currently, the Chinese vessels (coming from China Sea) reach the south-eastern part of the ‘Indira Point’ – the southernmost point of India – through the Strait of Malacca. However, the Kra Canal will allow those vessels to reach Nicobar Islands quite easily.
Strait of Malacca
A senior Thai official, who wished to remain anonymous, has said that the canal will be used not only for military purposes, as the Chinese cargo ships, too, will use the Kra Canal. Meanwhile, the official has admitted that the project is aimed at allowing the Chinese naval vessels to reach the Indian maritime boundary smoothly. As expected, India is worried about this mega project.
Many Thai officials, too, are against this project! After the construction of the Suez Canal in Egypt and the Panama Canal in Panama, the two countries lost full control of these canals and their adjoining areas. Currently, some global organisations control these two canals. Thai diplomats have advised Prime Minister Prayut to reject Beijing’s proposal, saying that Thailand should never invite China and other world powers to control its territories. They also said that China, as the main investor in the project, would gain control of the area and pose a serious threat to Thai sovereignty!
Kra Canal project
Currently, the powerful Military Junta rules Thailand, as Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun and Prime Minister Prayut are not in a position to oppose Junta’s decisions. However, the process to re-establish the democratic system has just begun in the South-east Asian nation. Thailand is all set to hold General Elections in February 2019. That’s why China is trying hard to initiate the project ahead of the Thai elections. If China manages to start the construction work, then it will be difficult for the new Thai government to scrap the project.
It will take almost a decade to complete the canal project, if the construction works begin in 2019. According to experts in international relations, India will certainly try to convince Thailand to reject China’s proposal. And if China fails to begin the construction works before February 2019, then India will encourage the ‘democratically elected’ Thai government to abandon the project. At the same time, India will have to deploy more naval ships to Andaman and Nicobar Islands in order to counter the Chinese aggression in its backyard. Australia, Japan and the US, too, may also join hands with India and oppose the strategically important Chinese project.
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