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South Asia Security Monitor - No. 282

Edited by Jeff M. Smith
February 13, 2012

China raised eyebrows throughout the Indian Ocean with news reports in December that it was setting up its first foreign military base in the Seychelles, a nation of islands off the southeastern coast of Africa. After a visit by Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie, Seychelles Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Paul Adam said “We have invited the Chinese government to set up military presence [sic] on Mahe to fight pirate attacks…” The Chinese navy has for the past few years been involved in anti-piracy missions off the coast of Somalia, its first modern, long-distance naval deployment. Chinese officials quickly responded to reports by insisting any facilities would be used for “logistics and supply purposes.” The state-run China Daily said China’s navy was “considering taking on supplies in the Seychelles while conducting escort missions to tackle piracy… the move did not equate to establishing a military base.” China currently enjoys access to ports and re-supply facilities in Djibouti, Oman, Yemen, and Pakistan. (
Press Trust of India December 13, 2011)


Afghanistan has signed its first major oil contract with a foreign country, and the winner is China. The deal, which could generate as much as $7 billion for Afghanistan in the long term, was signed by China National Petroleum Corp and involved an initial investment of $400 million from the Chinese company to develop an oil field in Afghanistan’s relatively stable north. The site is estimated to contain 80 million barrels of oil and CNPC will retain 15% of the proceeds, with the rest flowing to the Afghan government. Afghanistan is estimated to hold reserves of some 1.6 billion barrels, and more auctions are expected in the future, so its assumed China’s investment in the relatively small and risky project is an attempt to establish a foothold for future contracts. (
CNN December 28, 2011)


As U.S. negotiations with the Taliban gain momentum, Iran appears to be taking a page out of its playbook in Iraq by expanding its influence in Afghanistan to fuel anti-American sentiment ahead of an expected U.S. withdrawal in 2014. Though Iran has had a significant presence in Afghanistan since the U.S. invasion in 2001, Tehran is said to be accelerating activities such as “cultivating closer relations with the Taliban, funding politicians and media outlets, and expanding cultural ties.” Tehran seems particularly interested in undermining any potential long-term security agreement Washington and Kabul may ink to govern relations after 2014. Iran signed its own bilateral defense agreement with Afghanistan in December, when Iran’s foreign minister argued that foreign military bases were the cause of instability in the region. To further influence Afghanistan, Iran is using carrots ( reportedly sending duffel bags full of money to Afghan politicians, including President Hamid Karzai) as well as sticks (threatening in recent years to cut off fuel exports to Afghanistan during the winter and deport tens of thousands of Afghan refugees in Iran). (
Washington Post
January 4, 2012)


India and Israel are expanding cooperation on a range of fronts. During a visit to Israel in January by Indian External Affairs SM Krishna, Israeli President Shimon Peres endorsed a role for India as a permanent member of the UN Security Council. India has sought a permanent seat at the international community’s most exclusive club for years, gaining the endorsements of France, Russia, the U.S., and Britain in recent years (though not China). India and Israel established relations 20 years ago but this was the first visit by an Indian foreign minister in over a decade. Peres described India as “the greatest democracy on earth” and praised “the unbelievable achievement of overcoming poverty without becoming poor in freedom.” The two also discussed expanding trade and counterterrorism cooperation and the two countries are said to be working on a free trade agreement.

Meanwhile, around the time of Krishna’s visit, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) reported that it had signed a four-year $1.1 billion arms deal with an unidentified “Asian country” many suspect to be India. Israel in recent years has become by some measurements the top seller of military hardware to India, which is in the early stages of a massive, $100 billion defense modernization process. The latest IAI deal is said to involve “missiles, anti-missile systems, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), intelligence, and other systems.” Previously, IAI signed arms deals with India for the provision of Barak ground- and ship- based defensive missiles. (Globes Israel January 9, 2012; Voice of America January 10, 2012; Indian Express January 10, 2012)

Related Categories: South Asia; South Asia Program

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