'India Wants To Buy World's Emptiest Airport To Checkmate Chinese Navy In the Region'

India is keen to buy the Mattala international airport, known as the world's emptiest airport, to checkmate the Chinese navy in the region, a foreign policy article said.

The article written by David Brewster, which first first on the interpreter, said,  India was proposing to spend around $300 million to buy out Sri Lanka’s debt to China in return for a 40-year lease over Hambantota airport. But India’s future plans for the airport are hazy.

"Maybe a flight school? A new destination for Indian weddings? There seems little chance that it will turn a profit," it asked.

It also said, "Chinese takeover of Hambantota port only increases New Delhi’s worries that it will become an Indian Ocean hub for the Chinese navy. But, in fact, Hambantota has never been feasible as a full blown Chinese naval base. Its proximity to India would make it highly vulnerable to air attack in the event of conflict between the two countries. But short of war, Hambantota would make a fine logistics point for an expanded Chinese naval presence. Although Colombo has repeatedly claimed that no Chinese naval facility will be permitted in Sri Lanka, New Delhi worries that China’s influence will one day reach a point where the Sri Lankan government simply cannot say no.

That is not the point of the deal. A key element in any overseas naval base, and even a logistics facility, is easy access by air for people and supplies. A naval base also requires maritime air surveillance capabilities. Control over Hambantota airport will give India considerable control over how the port is used. It is difficult to conceive of the Chinese navy developing a significant facility at Hambantota without also controlling the airport. In short, India is spending $300 million buying an airport to block a Chinese naval base.

The long and twisted saga of Hambantota is emblematic of growing strategic competition in the Indian Ocean region, much of it focussed on ownership and access to infrastructure. In coming years, we are likely to see a lot more jostling between India, China and others in the Indian Ocean over control of ports, airports and other pieces of critical infrastructure – and perhaps increasingly for control over governments."

© 2017 Asian Mirror (pvt) Ltd