Throw light on the geostrategic importance of Maldives for India. How China's growing influence in Maldives is a strategic concern to India? Discuss.
Maldives is an Island in the Indian Ocean which India perceives as its region of influence. The geostrategic importance of Maldives for India include:
- Maldives is strategically located in the Indian Ocean. Maldives archipelago comprising 1,200 coral islands lies next to key shipping lanes which ensure uninterrupted energy supplies to countries like China, Japan and India.
- As India aims to be net security provider in the region. India needs to cooperate with Maldives in security and defence sectors.
- Maldives is also member of SAARC. India is actively pursuing strategy to isolate Pakistan in multilateral forums on the issue of terrorism. Maldives was the only SAARC country which seemed reluctant to follow India’s call for boycott of SAARC summit in Pakistan after the Uri attack.
- There is growing religious fundamentalism in Maldives. India cannot be a mute spectator to the increasing fundamentalist activities in its neighborhood.
- There are 25,000 Indian nationals living in Maldives (second largest expatriate community). India needs to protect their interests.
Growing influence of China in Maldives is a concern for India
- China has increased its presence in the Indian Ocean region and is sending naval ships in the name of antipiracy operations. Maldives has become an arena of great game and it is now in the heart of international geopolitics which India cannot afford to ignore.
- China’s maritime silk route is perceived as string of pearls. Lack of transparency with the project has led to fears of Indian Ocean transforming into Chinese lake. Maldives will be key partner for India in protecting its supremacy in the Indian Ocean region.
- Chinas open restraint to countries against interference in the recent tussle over declaration of emergency in Maldives has put India in a fix as it claims to be a champion of democracy. India’s restraint is portraying it as a fence sitter in international arena.
- The free trade agreement of Maldives with China will have a bearing on India and set the tone for its future diplomatic ties with Male.
Both India and Maldives must strive to achieve greater nexus in the relationships. Maldives must be sensitive to New Delhi’s concerns in keeping with its India first policy and India must increase its investments in Maldives the way it is investing in Afghanistan to achieve a greater cooperation and both nations must openly iterate their commitment for democracy in true letter and spirit.