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Geopolitical Implications of Maldives’ New Policy Stance



  Dec 20, 2023

Geopolitical Implications of Maldives’ New Policy Stance



Overview:

The Maldives, under President Mohamed Muizzu’s leadership, is taking significant steps that redefine its geopolitical alliances, particularly concerning India and China. This includes not renewing the agreement with the Indian Navy for hydrographic surveys and signaling a closer alignment with China.

Key Developments:

1. End of India-Maldives Hydrographic Survey Agreement: The decision to not renew the agreement with the Indian Navy for hydrographic surveys of Maldivian seawaters is a clear shift in Maldives’ defense and foreign policy. The Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) will take over these responsibilities, indicating a move towards self-reliance in maritime security.

2. China’s Growing Influence: Concurrently, Beijing seeks permission for its research vessels in the Southern Indian Ocean, raising concerns in New Delhi about potential surveillance of Indian defense bases. This move is part of China’s expanding influence in the Indian Ocean region, particularly in countries that are part of its ‘String of Pearls’ strategy.

3. Reducing Indian Military Presence: President Muizzu’s directive for Indian military personnel to leave the Maldives, ending their involvement in radar and surveillance operations, is a significant gesture underscoring the ‘India Out’ policy. This move reflects growing concerns about Indian military presence in the Maldives.

4. Reassessment of Past Agreements: The review of ‘secret agreements’ by the new Maldivian government suggests a reevaluation of the previous administration’s foreign policy, particularly those that might compromise national sovereignty.

5. Distance from India-Driven Platforms: The Maldives’ absence from the Colombo Security Conclave signals an intentional distancing from multilateral platforms influenced by India, further aligning with its independent foreign policy stance.

6. Changing Diplomatic Traditions: President Muizzu’s first official visit to Turkey, breaking the tradition of visiting India, along with participation in China’s National Day celebrations, indicates a diversification of Maldives’ international relations.

7. Impact on India’s Strategic Interests: These developments pose challenges to India’s strategic interests in the region. The Maldives’ proximity to India’s western coast and its role in regional maritime security are vital for India’s Indo-Pacific strategy.

8. India’s Role as a Regional Responder: Despite current tensions, India’s historical role as a first responder to crises in the Maldives, like the 2004 tsunami and the 2020 Covid pandemic, highlights the deep-rooted ties between the two nations.

9. Future Directions: The Maldives’ new foreign policy orientation requires India to reassess its approach towards Male, balancing geopolitical interests with regional stability. Observers will closely monitor how India navigates this changing landscape, especially considering the rising influence of China in the Indian Ocean.

Conclusion:

The Maldives’ policy shifts under President Muizzu mark a significant turn in South Asian geopolitics, affecting regional power dynamics and India’s strategic interests. The evolving situation calls for careful diplomatic maneuvering by India in the context of China’s increasing presence in the region.

SRIRAM’s


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