Home Russia & China China Why does India fear China’s improving ties with the Maldives?

Why does India fear China’s improving ties with the Maldives?

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News Analysis |

China is planning to establish a Joint Ocean Observation Station in the Maldives leading to numerous security concerns being raised in India. The opposition leader in Maldives also claimed that this development will have a military application too.

Political sources informed, “The observatory will be located in Makunudhoo and will allow the Chinese a vantage point of an important Indian Ocean shipping route through which many merchant and ships pass. The observatory will be alarmingly close to Indian waters, according to a report of Times of India.”

The report added that both China and the Maldives have finalized an agreement called the Protocol on Establishment of Joint Ocean Observation Station in 2017. They also have signed the controversial Free Trade Agreement (FTA). India perceives that establishment of this observatory may be part of China’s String of Pearls strategy and may encircle India.  India, the United States and many other countries have been demanding freedom of navigation in the disputed South China Sea.

China agreed to assist the Maldives in “China-Maldives Friendship Bridge” connecting Male to International Airport in Hulhumalé by providing a grant worth $126 million. Moreover, China’s Exim Bank gave a $373 million concessionary loan to upgrade the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport in 2014.

Simultaneously, China-Maldives relations are strengthening. Earlier, President Xi Jinping visited Maldives in September 2014; both countries had decided to establish Future-Oriented All-Round Friendly and Cooperative Partnership between them. They have also signed various agreements including Agreement on Establishing Joint Commonwealth and Tasmanian Economic Council (JCTEC), the MoU on Foreign Ministries cooperation, the MoU on promoting Male’-Hulhule’ Bridge project construction, and the MoU on health cooperation etc.

Read more: The Maldives: a honeymoon haven in peril

All these cooperation and joint efforts would flourish under the Maritime Silk Road initiative. Furthermore, China sent 1,000 tons of fresh water to the Maldives by plane and a military vessel in December 2014 when the latter was facing severe water shortage. China’s official Xinhua news agency says that more than 100,000 people in the capital city, Male, are short of water because of a fire at the country’s only water and sewage treatment plant.

China’s Foreign Ministry said Beijing has provided emergency aid in cash and drinking water in response to the Maldivian government’s request. These developments indicate increased China-Maldives relationship. So, the establishment of Joint Ocean Observation Station in Maldives is part of bilateral cooperation of these both countries.

India fears Maldives would be encircled by China’s growing influence. Contemporarily, the current President is more inclined towards China. If Nasheed regains its power then Maldives can be inclined towards India.

Under President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative, China granted loans and sent state-owned companies to develop Maldives ports and other public works. India’s influence in the Maldives has been diminishing since 2012 when it did not stand firmly behind Mr. Nasheed, who had been an ally, as Abdullah Yameen succeeded him.

Many Indian political analysts consider the Indian Ocean as India’s ocean as it lies in its backyard. India wanted to pursue its hegemonic aspirations to be the “Blue Water Navy” and wanted to keep its influence on Indian Ocean Littoral states. India has lots of concerns over China’s growing influence in the Maldives.

Read more: What role is India playing in the crisis in the Maldives?

The Maldives is only about 700 km from India’s Lakshadweep Islands and about 1200 km from the Indian mainland, too close for Delhi’s comfort to let a potential adversary set up shop. Maldives signed a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China two months ago ringing more alarm bells for India.

The smaller states including South and South East Asian states’ reliability on India depends upon its credibility as how much it would contribute to solve the Maldives’ current political instability, otherwise they would maintain their peaceful relations with China as India just prefers its own national and strategic interests rather than shared and common objectives.

The report added that both China and the Maldives have finalized an agreement called the Protocol on Establishment of Joint Ocean Observation Station in 2017. They also have signed the controversial Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

The current political chaos in the Maldives begun when President Abdulla Yameen imposed a 15-day emergency on February 5 and arrested the Chief Justice and a former head of state after the Supreme Court termed the imprisonment of nine MPs and former President Mohammed Nasheed “unconstitutional”.

Read more: After Nepal, Maldives raises specter of waning Indian influence

On the other side, China that has made large-scale investments in the Maldives called for the crisis to be resolved by relevant parties internally and opposed any external intervention. China agreed to assist the Maldives in “China-Maldives Friendship Bridge” connecting Male to International Airport in Hulhumalé by providing a grant worth $126 million.

Moreover, China’s Exim Bank gave a $373 million concessionary loan to upgrade the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport in 2014. India fears Maldives would be encircled by China’s growing influence. Contemporarily, the current President is more inclined towards China. If Nasheed regains its power then Maldives can be inclined towards India.


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