Beijing, August 3: In a disturbing development for India, China has formally opened its first overseas naval facility in Africa's Djibouti. The inauguration ceremony was held on Tuesday with Chinese media calling the base 'the logistics facility'. Notably, Djibouti also hosts America's only expeditionary marine base in Africa.
Officers and troops paraded for an audience that included Djibouti’s defence minister. China sent its first deployment of troops to the facility on July 11, marking the occasion with a ceremony in the southern province of Guangdong, Xinhua said.
The logistics base is the first of its kind for Beijing, which will use it to support “naval escorts in Africa and southwest Asia, (UN) peacekeeping and for humanitarian support,” according to a previous China defence ministry statement.
The Chinese navy has long assisted anti-piracy missions in the Gulf of Aden, as well as UN peacekeeping efforts throughout Africa.
China started building the base in February 2016 in the entrepot on the Horn of Africa, where it will be stationed just a few miles from Camp Lemonnier, the United States’ only permanent base in Africa.
Beijing has made extensive infrastructure investments throughout the African continent as it seeks to gain access to natural resources and new markets.
Chinese banks have been major funders of at least 14 such projects in Djibouti, valued at 14.4 billion dollars in total, including a railway line that will halve transit times from Djibouti to Ethiopia’s Addis Ababa.
Djibouti, a tiny East African nation of around 887,000 people, is sandwiched between Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia. It also hosts US, French, and Japanese military bases, taking advantage of the country’s strategic location at the southern entrance to the Red Sea, near the Suez Canal.