I am the first to admit that I’m a novice when it comes to naval matters. A n00b as it were. Since I first wrote my piece predicting where I think China’s first permanent overseas base would be, I’ve met an insane number of actual naval experts, including Thomas Webb at Petty Tyranny, and Surface Sailor. Listening to them has made me rethink my conclusions in that piece for sure, but a bit of news that has come to my attention has really made me rethink my conclusions.
The other day, Seychelles made the announcement that they had invited China to set up a military baseon the archipelago, to help combat piracy. If you’re thinking, “who?” don’t feel overly embarassed. Seychelles are known for two things: their lovely tourist industry, based around things like snorkeling and having the flag voted “Most Likely to be Found in a Pride Parade” by me. It’s a solid member of the African Union, despite being 665 miles off the coast of Madagascar and maintains a relative anonymity on the world scene.
Despite it’s status as geographical trivia, a Chinese presence would make total sense, with its location halfway between Africa and Asia. The gist of the offer itself can be found in a few different articles:
The declaration came as Liang Guanglie made the first-ever visit by a Chinese defence minister to the Indian Ocean island state.
‘We have invited the Chinese government to set up a military presence on Mahe to fight the pirate attacks that the Seychelles face on a regular basis,’ Adam said.
‘For the time being China is studying this possibility because she has economic interests in the region and Beijing is also involved in the fight against piracy,’ he explained.
General Liang, who arrived in Victoria on Thursday with a 40-strong delegation, had been invited in October by Seychelles President James Michel, when he was on a visit to China.
‘Together, we need to increase our surveillance capacity in the Indian Ocean… as Seychelles has a strategic position between Asia and Africa,’ Michel said in statement, adding that China had given its army two light aircraft.
The two countries signed a military cooperation agreement in 2004 that has enabled some 50 Seychelles soldiers to be trained in China.
They renewed their agreement on Friday, with China to provide further training and equipment.
So there’s that. I have to admit that Seychelles completely slipped my mind as being a possibility, though it would seem that the Indian Military Review magazine called it last year, but the islands readily meet the criteria I laid out. They are in a strategic location, due to the sea trade routes that China so dearly wants to protect. There are no counter-interests that would prevent China from moving forward with a base like in Pakistan. Unlike the Horn of Africa, Seychelles itself is a relatively secure location to dock and refuel, while also having the advantage of being much closer to China. And the area is itself sovereign and not under dispute, unlike the Spratly Islands.
This completely negates my theory that we’d see China construct its first permanent base on the Horn, but technically, I suppose this still counts as East Africa? In any event, China has yet to actually accept the offer, which I’m sure would come with a much larger bit of press interest. I’m looking forward to seeing three things moving forward: what reaction this draws from India, if any; the US reaction to sharing such a small space, since we currently maintain a drone base on Seychelles for use in surveillance missions; and the speed at which China would move forward, if it accepts the offer.