South Asia is one of richest regions in the world due to its wealth of minerals, beautiful climate, a variety of products, the manufacturing sector, and industries. This region is divided into the world’s three rapidly developing countries: Pakistan, China, and India. And the focus is on the Bay of Bengal.
China and India have always been at odds from the beginning, whether it’s the matter of Sino-Indian Border or the Tibet dispute. These states are in a race for being the most powerful country in the region and they seem to do anything to get points over each other. It’s now the Bengal Bay region where these two countries are trying to prove their grounds.
Significance of Bengal Bay
The Bay of Bengal is the largest bay on the face of the earth and shares a border with India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Myanmar as being part of the Indian Ocean. This bay has religious, economic and geographical importance. The bay hosts 20 sea beaches and 28 seaports. It is economically important, having the world’s largest seaports such as Chennai, Visakhapatnam, Paradip, Kolkata, Chittagong, Mongla, and Sittwe. The Bay of Bengal is also economically rich because of fish trading.
Fish trading is playing a vital role in the economy of Bangladesh, India, and Myanmar. Approximately 31% of the world’s coastal fishermen live and work in the Bay of Bengal. BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) supports and organizes the free trade internationally around the Bay of Bengal between the countries of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. The Bay of Bengal is also strategically important for these bordering countries, especially for Indian trade and economy.
The Bay of Bengal in Dispute
Due to high economic interests, Bangladesh and Myanmar got into a dispute over the boundaries and borders in the bay. The dispute was due to a maritime boundary and led to military tensions between the countries in 2009. The U.N (United Nations) court awarded the majority of the disputed area to Bangladesh and defined the ruling between both of the countries in 2014 as a solution to the dispute.
Current Tension and Naval Military Build-up
Since the UN’s Tribunal solved the dispute by awarding a large area to Bangladesh, the situation has gone hot again recently during the cold winter. It is reported that Bangladesh and Myanmar are both increasing their Navy forces and Navy weapons in the Bengal bay. Two old foes, China and India, are doing their best to take advantage of this situation. India and China both are supplying weapons and arms to Bangladesh and Myanmar (Burma) to win the economic benefits for themselves.
China has been very active in expanding its trade all around their country. In the east, the South China sea has been totally under the Chinese control and it has nearly kicked out the U.S and India’s trade operations from the region. In the western part, China has built a strong relationship with Pakistan on the CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) at Gwadar port, that seems to kick Dubai and India’s trade out.
The Bay of Bengal as Deciding Factor for India
As India’s trade has been lifting off from the region, it has only one part to keep its ships sailing, the Bengal Bay. Therefore, India has been trying hard to maintain its status in the region by providing Burma with weapon supplies and military equipment. On the other hand, Bangladesh has been supplied with two Submarines and helicopters by China. The India-China contest for the Bay of Bengal is reaching its peak because India is intending to provide Burma with submarines. Before that, India has been deep in relations with Bangladesh also, but due to China’s support, India has changed its partner to get the Bay of Bengal.
It is starting a 4-way game and both India and China are the investors who are getting a better edge than Bangladesh and Burma. Both Bangladesh and Myanmar are in a race to get prepared for claiming their rights, and it could lead to a war situation.
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