Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu (Image credit: AFP)
Muizzu’s missing the basics. His country needs India, always the first responder
Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu wasted no time after assuming office before asking New Delhi to withdraw “Indian troops” from its islands. Given Muizzu fought his election campaign on an India Out plank, and has indulged in far more strident anti-India rhetoric than his mentor Abdulla Yameen, this was not unexpected. To note, the troops Muizzu is making so much a song and dance about are barely 75 Indian Navy and Coast Guard staff, mostly technicians and crew, engaged in mostly medevac, patrol and air rescues in the region. But Muizzu’s stridency is the bigger challenge than removal of the “troops”.
India has far deeper presence in terms of expansion work on the islands. Almost 40 development projects, including a $500 million Greater Male Connectivity Project, form the backbone of the investments. It is with India and the US that the Maldives has its primary defence pacts. India will always remain by sheer geographical proximity its first responder – precisely why “troops” are stationed on Maldivian islands.
India will also remain the net security provider in the Indian Ocean Region in the foreseeable future, with its amped up maritime diplomacy and military strategy, and given that all talk of China setting up a naval base on a Maldivian island is yet speculation. Certainly, Beijing’s maritime assertiveness over the last decade is a challenge. It is what has led to Male yo-yoing between the two, the US and China, also deeply impacting its domestic politics and making the Maldives the second nation after Sri Lanka in IOR to sign onto Beijing’s BRI.
Male, capital of archipelago Maldives, 26 atolls including 1,200 islands spread over 90,000 sq km, at the centre of Indian Ocean’s busy shipping lanes and sea-lines of communication, has more sea than land in its jurisdiction. Geostrategic considerations aside of why the Maldives is significant for India, New Delhi must now engage with 46-year-old Muizzu on common sense of why India is as important to the Maldives. Bottomline is, in a world where climate change is the primary threat, no one else can pitch in as first responder. Neighbours first.
>> Source: The Times of India