Indian factor in Maldives
SOUTH Asia covers approximately 5.2 million square kilometres, which is 11.71 per cent of the Asian continent and 3.5 percent of the world’s land surface area. The population of South Asia is about 1.891 billion or about one fourth of the world’s population, making it as the most densely inhabited geographical region in the world. Surely, region itself holds a prime importance in rest of the world because of its terrain, topography, mineral rich resources, diverse climate, seasons and other bounties of nature. The eight countries which are part of South Asian geographical proximity include Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka. India being one of the major land holder in region often tries to disturb balance of power in region by different means. Its conflict is not only with Pakistan, which is also is a nuclear power but often disputes continue in one form or another with smaller states of South Asia. Indian claims of ‘world’s largest democracy’ and its malicious drives of ruling South Asian region can never be overlooked. Because of such intentions, time and again India keeps on propagating and infuriating to attain its hegemony in South Asia. In past Nepal was witnessed as one country which suffered badly because of Indian trade embargo and faced irrational and strange sanctions on its economy from India for long time.
Now Maldives is appearing as one country which is sustaining Indian pressures. Maldives is famous in world as one of tourist destination, visa free country which comprises of 1000 coral islands in Indian Ocean. This country in past few years is passing through political turmoil and major powers are taking due advantage of political disturbance in the country. As an island its economy rely mainly on tourism and shipping. Maldives carry a great sway from India and Sri Lanka because of its natives and area is traditionally more influenced by India’s culture and economy. With the China upcoming as economic giant in the region, India wants its supremacy to be maintained not only on land but in Indian Ocean too. Though in recent years it is observed that China is grinding down Indian influence in Maldives by developing economic projects and military connexions.
Chinese media recently reported that India which already has deployed its personnel and setting up military installations in Maldives is being told to take back its military helicopters and personnel. Chinese state media quoted that “The Maldives asking India to take back its military helicopters and personnel deployed there reflects the country’s increasing desire to rid itself of the excessive Indian influence’. A commentary in the Global Times said it was wrong on the part of Indian diplomats and security officials to think that the move by the island nation came at the behest of China, which does not interfere in any country’s internal affairs. The paper said the move also sends a signal to the Quad bloc, consisting of India, Australia, the US and Japan in the Indo-Pacific that plans to “contain” China. However, the Maldivian spokesperson told one of media outlet that his country has asked India to take back military helicopters and personnel posted there following the expiry of a pact in June.
It is worth noticing that the present government in Maldives is pro-China which irks India. According to claims of Chinese newspaper, India has had considerable influence in the Maldives and New Delhi has long regarded the South Asian island nation as its backyard and sphere of influence, with a strong desire to tighten its grip on the capital city of Male and exclude other countries influence. And now, “as an independent sovereign country, the island republic increasingly desires to rid itself of excessive Indian influence and maximize its interests by developing diplomatic ties with all major powers.” According to the said article, “The request for the withdrawal of the helicopters and personnel is an embodiment of such a desire and sends an important message to all major powers in the Indo-Pacific region,”
On the other side India is maintaining claim that India preserves right of freedom of navigation in Indian Ocean and does not coerce any state for excessive accessibility. One of the Indian think tank, Gateway in its report indicated that “three of the large Chinese projects in Maldives account for $1.5 billion, which is the 40 percent of the total Maldives’ budget. That’s clout, and it is weighed in favour of the present government”. Thus, this report also stands for the Indian anti-government sentiments for Maldives. It is important to note that China under the flagship project of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is building and investing in huge infrastructure projects and networks of connectivity throughout the region. For the similar purpose it has raised its stakes in engagement with Maldives since 2011 and made investment for the construction of the Maldives airport to Hulhumalé airport. Therefore, India views this BRI project a challenge to its supremacy in South Asian region.
Though Indian hegemonic intentions for South Asia are not hidden anymore and one finds out that its relations with neighbouring countries often experience icy approach. Be it Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal or any other smaller state in the region, India always try to interfere in domestic matters of any country. India is often found as adverse and rigid towards its neighbours. Thus, one might say that interfering in other nation’s internal affairs ridicules Indian claim of ‘world’s largest democracy’.