Home SemasaGlobal India threatened by China-Maldives defence ties

India threatened by China-Maldives defence ties

by Adrian David

HO CHI MINH CITY, 23 APR – India has been urged to enhance greater cooperation with the Maldives to deflect China’s increasing influence in the Indian Ocean.

Making the call, Ho Chi Minh City University of Foreign Languages and Information Technology don Tran My Hai Loc said that India needed to adapt to the change of times to prioritise focussing on diplomatic engagement economic cooperation and security collaboration with the Maldives.

At the same time, Tran opined that India could do so while simultaneously strengthening defence cooperation with key security partners Japan, the United States, Australia and Southeast Asian countries.

Tran believed that the Maldives relationships in the region had shifted following the election of its President Mohamed Muizzu in September last year.

“The Maldives has signed defence agreements and infrastructure deals with China, which are perceived to be part of China’s broader strategy to isolate India from South Asian nations.

“China appears to strengthen its presence in the Indian Ocean, when last January it signed a series of bilateral agreements with Maldives on infrastructure, energy, maritime and agriculture cooperation during Muizzu’s visit to Beijing.

“The relationship was further deepened in March as the Maldives and China entered into two defence agreements, with China committing to providing military assistance.

“These agreements do not necessarily indicate Chinese intent to alter the regional security balance and the triangular relations between China, the Maldives and India. “But they have raised concerns, especially in India,” wrote Tran, the Department of Diplomatic Politics deputy head in the Faculty of International Relations.

He added that given the Maldives’ status as a small state with limited resources, the motivation behind seeking military aid from China could stem from factors such as national defence, maritime security and disaster response.

“China’s assistance may be perceived as a means to bolster the Maldives’ military capabilities rather than a deliberate move to alter regional dynamics.

“But military collaboration could be part of China’s broader strategy to leverage power and diminish India’s sphere of influence over South Asian countries.

“India has also started to withdraw its military forces stationed in the Maldives at the request of Muizzu.

“At the same time, China’s presence in the Maldives has steadily increased, as evidenced by significant infrastructure initiatives, including the China-Maldives Friendship Bridge, valued at US$200 million,” explained Tran, a doctor of philosophy (PhD) student at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Vietnam.

He added that China’s influence was further substantiated by the permission given to Chinese ocean research vessel, Xiang Yang Hong 03, to dock at a Maldives port.

“India is concurrently strengthening its naval forces on the strategically crucial Lakshadweep islands, positioned approximately 130 kilometres north of the Maldives.

“The Indian Navy has revealed plans to enhance ‘monitoring activities’ in the region by deploying a naval unit stationed on Minicoy Island,” Tran revealed.

In March 2024, he said the Indian Navy announced the reinforcement of its presence on strategically vital islands near the Maldives.

“The newly commissioned INS Jatayu, which became operational on March 6, is situated in India’s Lakshadweep archipelago and is designed to function as an independent maritime unit.

“This strategic move demonstrates that India is enhancing its naval capabilities to maintain a vigilant posture and pre-empt potential threats in the region,” said Tran.

He believed that the Maldives was a pivotal part of China’s ‘String of Pearls’ grand strategy.

“This strategic concept involves China’s efforts to expand its influence through a network of naval bases and commercial ports encircling vital maritime routes.

“The Maldives is strategically located only 700 kilometres from the Lakshadweep archipelago and 1,200 kilometres from the Indian mainland.

“China’s growing influence in the Maldives raises significant security concerns given its proximity to India. “There is a prevailing perception that the world has underestimated the implications of China’s rapid military modernisation and maritime expansion in the Indian Ocean.

“China’s global naval power transformation has led to a willingness to counterbalance US interests in the West Pacific and Indian interests in the Indian Ocean,” Tran said.

He warned that Beijing’s growing influence in the Indian Ocean and its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative could see China potentially adopt a military posture in the region.

“These trends hold immense significance for India as China’s activities may restrict operational space and decrease India’s conventional leverage with smaller regional states.

“Adding to military pressure along the Himalayan border, the possibility of China establishing a naval base on one of the Maldivian islands could open a maritime front against India, marking a milestone in China’s strategic encirclement of its neighbour,” said Tran.

He noted that the Maldives had emerged as a critical node in China’s strategic ambitions.

“The recent defence pacts and collaboration between the Maldives and China underline a growing alignment that could strengthen China’s position in the Indian Ocean.

“As part of the ‘String of Pearls’, the Maldives could enhance China’s maritime capabilities and presence despite its historical context within India’s sphere of influence,” said Tran.

Rather than questioning China’s motives, Tran felt that India should prioritise adapting to the inevitable consequences of Chinese influence in the Indian Ocean.

“China’s maritime activities stem from diverse factors such as resource and commercial interests, diplomatic considerations, military and security concerns and heavy reliance on Middle Eastern and African resources.

“Through its expansion from the East Sea to the Indian Ocean, China aims to undermine the unity and strength of India’s regional alliances.

“In securing energy routes through these locations, China has broadened its trade and diplomatic relations with various countries, including the Maldives,” wrote Tran.

India, he thought, should seek to strengthen its relationship with the Maldives and mitigate China’s influence by prioritising diplomatic engagement, economic cooperation and security partnerships.

Tran summarised that strengthening defence cooperation with crucial security partners like Japan, the United States, Australia and Asean countries was also critical for India to maintain a proactive stance, safeguard its national interests and limit regional security threats. – airtimes.my

#AirTimes #China #India #Maldives

Related Articles

Leave a Reply