U.S. not to weigh in on Muizzu’s plan to remove Indian forces from Maldives
The US government did not comment on Maldives President-elect Mohamed Muizzu’s announcement on Tuesday that he will fulfill his election promise and begin the process of removing Indian military forces from the country.
What is the context behind the Indian military in Maldives?
- Historical Ties: India and the Maldives have a long history and culture. The Maldives has been an important neighbor for India for many decades, and the two countries have maintained good relations. During times of crisis, India has frequently been the first to react to the Maldives’ appeals for assistance.
- Security Cooperation: India and the Maldives have a long history of working together on security issues. This includes training and capacity-building for Maldivian security forces, which has helped them deal with a variety of security concerns, such as piracy and marine security.
- Counterterrorism and Counterpiracy Efforts: India and the Maldives have worked together to combat terrorism and piracy. The presence of the Indian military can aid in the coordination and response to security challenges in the region, especially those related to terrorism and piracy.
- Disaster Reaction and Humanitarian Assistance: Given the Maldives’ vulnerability to natural disasters such as tsunamis, India’s military presence during such crises helps facilitate speedy reaction and humanitarian assistance. In the past, Indian military assets have been deployed to provide relief and support during disasters.
- Joint Exercises: India and the Maldives conduct joint military exercises as part of efforts to strengthen bilateral defence cooperation and interoperability between the two nations’ armed forces.
- Strategic Location: The Maldives is strategically located in the Indian Ocean region. It is located along important marine routes and acts as a maritime link between the Middle East and Southeast Asia. The stability and security of the maladives are of direct interest to India in the context of regional security.
What is the current scenario in Maldives?
- Political Context: Mohamed Muizzu is a member of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), the same party as former President Abdulla Yameen. During Abdulla Yameen’s presidency, he was the Minister of Housing and Urban Development.
- Stance: President Muizzu is viewed as a surrogate for Abdulla Gayoom and is maintaining the pro-China foreign policy that President Yameen followed during his tenure. Muizzu has expressed support for the “India-Out” campaign, which seeks the expulsion of Indian military soldiers stationed in the Maldives.
What are the implications If the Indian Troops are asked to leave Maldives?
- Concerns about Maldives security:
- The Maldives may encounter security problems, particularly in marine security, counterterrorism activities, and disaster response. Indian military assets have assisted the Maldivian security forces in these regions.
- The Maldives would lose the strategic benefit of having a regional military partner for defence and security.
- Regional Safety:
- The withdrawal of Indian forces from the Maldives may leave a gap in regional security. It may raise concerns about the security vacuum in the Indian Ocean region, particularly considering the Maldives’ vital location.
- Neighboring countries, such as India, may be concerned about the impact on regional stability.
- Relations between India and the Maldives:
- The proposal for Indian troops to depart the Maldives would most certainly strain India-Maldives diplomatic relations. It could lead to a thawing of bilateral relations and have an impact on other sectors of cooperation, such as commerce and development assistance.
- The Influence of China:
- In the absence of an Indian military presence, the Maldives may attempt to strengthen connections with other countries, such as China. China’s presence and influence in the Indian Ocean region have grown, and the Maldives’ move toward China may have broader geopolitical ramifications.
What is the way forward?
- Utilize Geographic and Cultural links: India can take advantage of its geographical proximity, overlapping security interests, and deep cultural links with the Maldives. Historically, India has been the first responder to Maldives emergencies.
- Infrastructure developments: To compete with China’s developments in the Maldives, India should accelerate the progress of infrastructure projects such as the Greater Male Connectivity Project.
- Highlight China’s Policies: India should call attention to China’s use of economic ties for geopolitical influence, such as debt-trap diplomacy and its “Strings of Pearls” policy aimed at opposing India’s regional power.
- Pursue Multiparty Democratic Engagement: India should maintain a neutral stance in neighbouring countries’ domestic affairs and engage with a diverse range of political views in the Maldives to foster democracy.