Day 46 – Q 2.What are India’s interests in the Maldives? Examine the emerging challenges that the small island country is facing and their implications for India.
2. What are India’s interests in the Maldives? Examine the emerging challenges that the small island country is facing and their implications for India.
मालदीव में भारत के हित क्या हैं? उन उभरते चुनौतियों की जांच करें जो इस छोटे द्वीप देश को सामना करन पद रहा है। भारत के लिए इसके क्या प्रभाव हैं?
Maldives is an island nation located in the Indian Ocean. Relation with Maldives is important for India given its strategic location and geographical proximity.
Maldives being in India’s backyard, India has following interests.
- Strategic location helps surveillance operations in the Indian Ocean region,
- Protect India’s trade interests.
- Keep watch on global terror as country is closely linked to radical Islam.
- Check Chinese presence in IOR countering string of pearls.
- Export destination for Indian goods and protect Indians investment in Maldives.
Recent Emerging challenges with respect to Maldives:
Complex political situation, weak government institutions
- Political crisis in Maldives. Refusal of the government to abide by the ruling of the Supreme Court. Imposition of emergency. The arrest of the Supreme Court Chief Justice and political figures.
- On a per capita basis, the Maldives has sent the highest number of foreign fighters to support terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq.
- High fiscal deficit and public debt. Risk of external debt distress high with economy being narrowly based on tourism and fisheries.
Increasing China’s presence:
- The Maldives is also a member in China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative — a development strategy which has met with a certain resistance by India.
- Maldives passed the Free Trade Agreement with China. The archipelago nation is the only SAARC country, other than Pakistan, to have a free trade pact with China.
- China has also sent warships to visit the Maldives. If China, which has stepped up military pressure on India along their Himalayan frontier, turned one of the Maldivian islands into a naval base, it would effectively open a maritime front against India.
Implications for India
- Increasing Chinese presence is likely to come in conflict with Indian interests and strain bilateral relations. Ex: Maldives cancelling GMR airport project.
- A weakened Maldives could prove a fertile ground for extremism and religious fundamentalism, piracy, smuggling and drug trafficking – all major security worries for New Delhi.
The Indian Ocean stability:
- More than 97% of India’s international trade by volume and 75% by value passes through the Indian Ocean. Secure sea lanes are crucial for India.
The ‘China factor’, coupled with India’s inability to build on ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy, especially in the case of Maldives, is an added and a more immediate factor in present state of strained relations. There is a need to reassess strategy and tread carefully with Maldives.
Best answer: Kamal