The so-called string of pearls—a series of naval bases in South and Southeast Asia intended to secure Chinese sea lines of communication across the Indian Ocean–looks to be adding another gem. Beijing has indicated that it will start using the Seychelles to resupply its naval fleet, initially PLA-Navy vessels on anti-piracy patrols, but also prompting speculation that this is a prelude to establishing a naval base there. Defense Minister Liang Guanglie was in the Seychelles earlier this month to boost bilateral ties. Seychelles President James Alix Michel visited Beijing in October. The two countries have had a military cooperation agreement since 2004 that provides for Seychelles soldiers to be trained in China.
Pearls already in the string include Marao in the Maldives, Gwadar in Pakistan, Chittagong in Bangladesh, Sittwe in Burma, Lamu in Kenya and Hambantota in Sri Lanka. China also has resupply agreements with Oman and Yemen, similar to the one being initially proposed with the Seychelles. The U.S. has a drone base in the Seychelles, but the arrival of the Chinese fleet in such a strategically important part of the Indian Ocean would give rise to most concern in New Delhi.