Day 86 – Q 2. What strategic leverage can India enjoy by maintaining close ties with the Maldives? Explain.
2. What strategic leverage can India enjoy by maintaining close ties with the Maldives? Explain.
मालदीव के साथ घनिष्ठ संबंध बनाकर भारत किस रणनीतिक लाभ का आनंद ले सकता है? समझाएं।
Recently, Indian PM’s first overseas visit after taking the oath of office for a second term was to Maldives which is an important symbolic gesture reflective of the special relationship that exists between the two countries. This showcased strengthening and invigorating of the traditionally strong and friendly relations further nurtured by geographical contiguity, ethnic, historical, socio-economic and cultural ties between the peoples of the two countries.
- The given map shows the strategic location of Maldives in the Indian ocean as well as with respect to India. In this regard, India can have following strategic leverages by maintaining close relations with Maldives :
- Strategic location – 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. This can be leveraged by India in times of strategic need.
- At the Heart of International Geopolitics – Since China started to send naval ships to the Indian Ocean roughly 10 years ago and right up to the Gulf of Aden in the name of antipiracy operations Maldives’ significance has steadily grown as it falls right in the middle of Ocean.
- Regional Security – As the pre-eminent South Asian power and a ‘net security provider’ in the Indian Ocean region, India needs to cooperate with the Maldives in security and defense sectors. Further, India can tackle extremism in the region with the help of Maldivian authorities.
- Member of SAARC – It is important for India to have the Maldives on board to maintain its leadership in the region especially in SAARC due to the constant acrimony with Pakistan.
- Diaspora – There are 25,000 Indian nationals living in the Maldives (second largest expatriate community). Indian tourists also account for close to 6% of tourists Maldives receives every year.
- UNSC Support – Maldives has extended its support for India’s candidature for permanent membership of an expanded and reformed UN Security Council. The Maldives also has reiterated support for India’s candidature for a non-permanent seat for the year 2020-21.
- China’s footprint: The Maldives has undoubtedly emerged as an important “pearl” in China’s “String of Pearls” in South Asia. This can be countered by having a close strategic relationship with Maldives.
Consequently, India has taken the following measures to boost the India-maldives Strategic relationship:
- The signing of the US$800 million Dollar Line of Credit Agreement in March 2019, for assisting the Maldives to achieve sustainable social and economic development.
- The recent joint exercise Ekatha conducted in April 2019 to strengthen coordination in enhancing maritime security in the region, through coordinated patrolling and aerial surveillance, exchange of information, and capacity building.
- Technical agreement on sharing ‘White Shipping Information’ between the Indian Navy and the Maldives National Defence Force was also signed, enabling the exchange of prior information on the movement of commercial, non-military vessels.
It is important for India to have Maldives in its sphere of strategic influence. India should reach out to all governmental and nongovernmental actors of the atoll in economic, socio-cultural and political arenas. Governmental dialogue mechanisms are not sufficient in themselves, which should in the first place be regularised and supplemented with other means.