Strategic importance of India's ports and maritime trade in response to China's Belt and Road Initiative

The importance of ports has grown with the globalisation of the economy. It is no surprise that most factories are clustered around the coasts, close to the seaports. The fact that almost 95% of India’s business by volume and 70% by value through marine transport highlights the vital role that ports play in the country’s economy.

Shipping and marine commerce are highly competitive industries. In order to build a name for themselves in this competitive industry, several governments have begun providing different economic incentives for shipping corporations to entice them. This has put the industries registed in India in a less advantageous position then their foreign counterparts. The declaration of China’s MSR initiative, have further aggravated the harm.
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was launched by China as a plan to build land and sea routes between Asia, Africa, and Europe. China is helping to construct ports in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. It is common knowledge that Indian commercial ships have been departing from the country’s ports in order to re-register in eastern Asian nations, where taxes are lower and the business climate friendlier. The Indian shipping industry would be faced with formidable obstacles if such a large amount of cash was invested in this sector. Chinese state-owned firms finance a wide range of overseas projects, from $78 million in Djibouti to $1.6 billion in Gwadar, Pakistan. That China owns and operates a global network of international seaports is an issue that raises strategic and economic concerns for India. It will give China a lot of clout in the fight to regulate international shipping. The efficiency and capacity of Chinese ports is also a cause for worry, not only the sheer number of ports under Chinese control. In comparison to Chinese ports, Indian ones are woefully inadequate. India’s overall containerized cargo capacity of 8.75 million TEUs at its 12 main ports is less than a fourth of the containerized products handled at China’s lone port of Shanghai, makes it amply clear.
One initiative that has the potential to shift the game in this respect is the Sagarmala project. There are a total of 577 potential projects planned under this initiative at a cost of almost Rs 8.570500 trillion (a lot of zeros). The primary goals of this programmed are port modernization, the development of additional ports, and the organization of all other aspects of industrialization surrounding the ports.

Improving India’s port facilities would be a significant step in bolstering the country’s standing in the maritime arena. However, it’s worth stressing that new policies are just as, if not more, crucial in this respect. If the Indian government wants additional ships and boats to be registered in Indian ports, it must adjust its policies accordingly. Additionally, if China keeps taking over more and more ports in the Indian Ocean, it could pose a very serious threat to Indian security in the area.