Maldives like most of the neighbours is important to India, but more important than other neighbours in the light of Chinese emergence and India’s position in Indian Ocean.
1. Strategically speaking, Maldives archipelago comprises 1,200 coral islands and lies next to key shipping lanes which ensure uninterrupted energy supplies to countries like China, Japan and India. Important because any one who controls Maldives controls the oil lanes.
2. Since China started to sending naval ships to Indian Ocean up to Gulf of Aden on the pretext of antipiracy operations (which incidentally Chinese connived with Pirates) Maldives’ significance has steadily grown and it can play a key role in controlling piracy. Any threat to Maldives has the potential to issue a threat to the control of the choke points in Indian Ocean.
3. India in any case needs to cooperate with Maldives in security and defence sectors, since it wants to emerge as the pre-eminent South Asian power and a ‘net security provider’ in the Indian Ocean region.
4. China’s massive economic presence in Maldives is a major concern for India. With the country now said to owe 70% of its external aid to China, the present Maldives head of Govt, Yameen has done to Maldives what Rajapaksa did to Sri Lanka. India significance and its importance waned in the light of ouster of President Nasheed, some stage and the situation might just have offer India the right opportunity. India did intervene in Maldives to free President Gayoom from a coup.
Threat to democracy
5. A large section of population which supports the opposition parties like Nasheed’s MDP wants India to act against Yameen
Islamic tinge to Unity and its Threats
6. Maldives is also a member of SAARC. It is important for India to have Maldives on board to maintain its leadership in the region. Maldives was the only SAARC country which seemed reluctant to follow India’s call for boycott of SAARC summit in Pakistan after the Uri attack
7. Islamic radicalisation has been growing rapidly of late in Maldives, and ithat archipelago accounted for one of the highest numbers of foreign fighters in Syria in terms of per capita. India can never allow a neighbour which fails to check Islamic radicalization.
8. India and Maldives share ethnic, linguistic, cultural, religious and commercial links. India was among the first to recognise Maldives after its independence in 1965 and later established its mission at Malé in 1972
9. There are 25,000 Indian nationals living in Maldives (second largest expatriate community). Indian tourists also account for close to 6% of tourists Maldives receives every year
10. India is also a preferred destination for Maldivians for education, medical treatment, recreation and business. More and more Maldivians are seeking long term visa for pursuing higher studies/ medical treatment in India.
11. Maldives offers a lot of Business opportunities for India, as the virgin pristine islands ne tourism development infrastructure and other infrastructural developments related to growth as well.
Source-The Times Of India, N. Delhi