On account of its geographic location and geopolitical factors, the countries in the Caribbean have traditionally looked upon the US as a reliable Security Partner.
The Caribbean-United States Declaration of Principles, the Caribbean-United States Plan of Action on Security Cooperation and the Caribbean-United States Framework for Security Cooperation are few examples of such cooperation.
In 2019, on the tenth anniversary of the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI), a joint statement was issued by the governments of the Caribbean states and the United States which committed to “increase regional cooperation and building capacity to address all forms of trafficking, dismantle transnational criminal organisations, and define a common operational approach to counter shared threats and promote information sharing”.
The statement also called to promote the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS) and Regional Security System (RSS) as the entities for the coordination of regional security programs and projects among the CARICOM States, RSS Member States, and with the Dominican Republic, and secure Caribbean funding for the Caribbean security institutions.
However, in recent years, the US has reduced its security aid to the Caribbean region.
The CBSI coincided with a precipitous decline in the annual value of the US Security Assistance to CARICOM: The Security Assistance Monitor data records a total value of USD195 million for 2011, which fell to USD52.7 million the following year. The total annual value declined almost gradually to USD20 million in 2018.
Keeping a close look at these developments, a new player China no emerged in the Caribbean security sector and is looking to expand its footprints in the region.
According to an October 2018 report by the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission titled, China’s Engagement with Latin America and the Caribbean
“China’s military and security engagement strategy are focused on expanding military-to-military contacts, personnel exchanges, arms sales, and military operations other than war in support of Beijing’s broader foreign policy objectives.”
“China’s military engagement and arms sales in the region seek to build political capital and goodwill among Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) states, foster institutional and personal relationships with LAC military leaders, and gain geopolitical influence”.
On July 8, 2019, Chinese State Councillor and Defence Minister Wei Fenghe stated that China is willing to deepen military exchanges and cooperation with the Caribbean countries and Pacific island countries under the framework of the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI).
According to reports in Xinhua news agency, Wei made the remarks when meeting with attendees of the Fourth Forum for Senior Defence Officials from Caribbean and South Pacific Countries held in China.
The Chinese military stands ready to deepen mutual trust and consolidate friendship with the militaries of the Caribbean countries and Pacific island countries, Wei said, adding that cooperation will be promoted in such areas as anti-terrorism, peacekeeping and disaster relief to strengthen exchanges and cooperation under the framework of the BRI.
As of 2019, security co-operation between China and the CARICOM bloc remains moderate. In 2017, China donated approximately USD1.2 million worth of military equipment, including two Tiger armoured personnel vehicles (APVs), to the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, and the Guyana Defence Force previously procured two Chinese-made Harbin Y-12 light transport aircraft along with additional utility vehicles.
In the same year, China donated 37 police vehicles, collectively worth USD2 million, to Grenada.
CARICOM countries have begun enrolling military officers in professional military courses in China. Barbados and Trinidad & Tobago are known to have sent military officers to China for training that ranges from mere language and Chinese culture education to command and general staff training.