India is dominating the Maldives. But it is not happening overnight.
As of this writing, Defence Minister Mariya Didi and Chief of Defence Force Major General Abdullah Shamal are in India on an official visit. At the same time, Foreign Minister Abdullah Shahid is in the UK fresh from his visit to the USA earlier this week. Both delegations are engaged in similar activities in both countries.
Defence Minister Didi is trying to strengthen defence relations between Maldives and India. India has offered to Install Coastal Surveillance Radar Systems in the Maldives and the Minister has accepted the offer. Speaking to the the media, the Minister claimed that it was important that surveillance equipment of a foreign power be installed on Maldivian soil.
After Foreign Minister Abdullah Shahid met with Mr David Hale; the US State Department’s Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs; the Minister tweeted saying that he believes that the US strategy in the Indo-Pacific is the foundation for peace in the Indian Ocean.
What is apparent from these parallel events is that the Maldives has come under the military umbrella of the USA and India. After practically destroying the Middle East in what Mr George W Bush had termed a “crusade”, the sights of the American Empire are set on the the Asia Pacific region. American defence analysts view China as a threat to American global dominance. Some analysts even dispute that America is the sole global superpower and now view China as an equal rival.
During the final years of the Cold War, the USA undermined the USSR by increasing their influence in Baltic and Balkan regions; countries located within the Soviet sphere of influence. It is evident that USA is using the same strategy in Asia-Pacific. The importance of the Indian Ocean for the US is that India acts as a proxy for American interests in the region.
Many notable events in the Maldives had preceded these visits to the US and India within the previous two months alone.
It began with a delegation of the US State Department which visited the Maldives and discussed the establishment of stronger military relations.
The Americans offered financial packages from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in exchange for strengthening military relations.
The Government of the Maldives, within that same period, refused to accept an air ambulance offered by Pakistan and proceeded to renew agreements made with India which allowed the Indian Military to operate military helicopters within Maldivian borders. The Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) held two military exercises in conjunction with the Indian Army. The Indian Air Force conducted surveillance operations in the Maldives.
As a show of strength, an Indian Navy vessel visited the Maldives to “conduct operations”.
Also, within these two months, the Maldivian Chief of Defence Force visited India twice.
During President Dr Waheed’s administration, the US proposed a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) to the Government of the Maldives. The Government of the Maldives were in negotiations with the US when drafts of the agreement were leaked to the public. Talks fell through and the SOFA agreement was never signed. The US government approached President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayyoom’s administration. President Yameen refused. According to some sources, when US diplomats brought up the topic of a SOFA agreement, he quipped that the “SOFA is so far from us” and ended the conversation.
President Dr Waheed’s administration and President Yameen’s administrations were both punished for refusing the Americans.
During his visit to the US, Foreign Minister Shahid met with officials of US Treasury Department and US Aid as well. The Minister was also given the chance to address the UN Security Council. According to some sources, the US will assist Maldives through IMF and World Bank. Some might say that all of this is due to the new foreign policies of the current administration. However, to entertain the thought that these American favours are cheap would be naive.
It is a dream of former President Nasheed to make Maldives a protectorate of India, similar to the late Maldivian Sultanate’s relationship with the British Raj.
President Nasheed explained why that must be done. He said that the Maldives will be the country which protects Indian interests in the Ocean during the coming struggles between India and China. Mr Nasheed initiated this work during his administration by signing a defence cooperation agreement with India; an agreement which his predecessor, President Maumoon Abdul Gayyoom had refused to sign.
India might not officially develop military bases in the Maldives. There is no need for a military base if Indian air force can freely use Maldivian air-space, and if its navy can freely operate in Maldivian waters. Moreover, if Indian radars are installed on Maldivian soil and if Indian army personnel can operate in the Maldives under the guise of humanitarian assistance, there is no need for a military base at all. The Maldives itself will become a large military outpost for the Indians.
Defence Minister Mariya Didi and President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih continue to justify the intensifying Indian military presence in the Maldives saying that the Maldivian National Defence Force lacks the capacity to monitor and guard the territory of Maldives. If that is the case, then the oath taken by MNDF soldiers to protect the sovereignty and independence of the nation is meaningless.
It is an outright lie to claim that the radars, aircrafts and navy ships are used to protect Maldives from terrorists and pirates.
Some might believe these lies, but the main purpose is to show China that Maldives is under the control of India, which itself is a proxy of USA.
Indian media continues to describe Maldives as the backyard of India and even described President Solih’s win in the election as a win for the Research and Analysis Wing of India (RAW).
Government officials and former President Nasheed are aware that the executive alone cannot hand the country over to India.
They know that they need a parliamentary majority to secure the agreements made with India and USA.
The Maldivian parliamentary elections are slated for March 2019. Although President Solih slid into power on the shoulders of a coalition, all of the rumblings of the political arena now point to the MDP’s ambition for a parliamentary majority.
It is up to the voting public to quietly wait and see.