new Delhi: The strategic competition between India and China is intensifying by the day as the island nation heads of state for the presidential election in Maldives in 2023, both trying to keep Male in their fold. Male is increasingly facing political heat as both major political parties there lean heavily towards New Delhi and Beijing, creating rival camps.
The current Ibu Solih administration has been a staunch supporter of India since his Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) came to power in 2018, which overthrew the former Abdulla Yameen government, which has come under Chinese influence in favor of Beijing over New Delhi .
As India seeks Maldives to play an important role within the Indo-Pacific strategic framework with the Indian Ocean region under New Delhi’s ‘Neighbourhood Policy’ and ‘SAGAR’ (Security and Growth for All in the Region) vision, the island nation has also arrived. Diplomatic sources told ABP Live that majorly because of its strategic position under China’s ‘String of Pearls’ strategy, which has intensified the competition between the two.
The sources said India is providing “unprecedented support” to the Solih government, which has consistently advocated and implemented an ‘India First’ policy, even as New Delhi tries to contain China’s growing moves there. Several infrastructure projects have been launched for
Beijing is believed to have once again been active there with the support of opposition parties, most notably the Major Alliance consisting of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and the People’s National Congress (PNC) led by former President Abdulla Yameen. facing a grave crisis. There corruption and allegations of corruption.
According to sources, China is now looking for a naval base there and is actively pushing for several infrastructure projects there under President Xi Jinping’s ‘Belt and Road’ initiative. By flooding the country with Chinese goods, it is slowly capturing the Maldivian market as well.
Under the trilateral agreement between China and the Maldives to establish a coordination mechanism under the BRI, the construction of the ‘China-Maldives Friendship Bridge’ is in full swing, with all bottlenecks being addressed on a war footing. The pact seeks to move forward all stalled Chinese projects there by removing all regulatory hurdles.
The ophthalmology center of the China-funded Hulhumale Hospital is expected to reopen soon, with Chinese doctors and nurses returning to the Maldives, Wang Lixin, the Chinese ambassador to the Maldives, said last week.
Maldives was also invited by China for the ‘China-Indian Ocean Region Forum’ held in Kunming on 21 November. Maleh later confirmed that he had not attended the conference in an official capacity.
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Countering the ‘India Out’ campaign
Meanwhile, India is rattled by the ‘Indian out’ campaign there, even as the Narendra Modi government continues to take a measured response and focus only on the development aspects, another source said. he said.
In the last few years, the current Maldivian government has also fiercely defended New Delhi as the ‘India Out’ campaign is gaining momentum there. Maldives has also become important under trilateral maritime security cooperation with India and Sri Lanka.
President Solih last visited India in August this year as he prepares for an uphill battle next year. Solih was the first head of state to meet President Draupadi Murmu soon after being elected to the top post.
Sources said that during the visit, Solih was assured of India’s support not only politically but also militarily. India has provided Maldives with a range of military equipment ranging from reconnaissance aircraft to military helicopters, utility vehicles and patrol vessels of the Maldivian National Defense Force.
Sources said India is also concerned about the growing threat of terrorism with the Maldives becoming a hub for Pakistan-based terrorist outfits like the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
India is also developing the Greater Male Connectivity Project (GMCP) there – the biggest ever infrastructure project in Maldives and one of India’s biggest projects in the neighbourhood.
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Political chaos in Maldives
Recently, the Maldives has descended into political chaos of sorts with growing infighting within the dominant MDP over its leader and speaker of parliament, Mohamed Nasheed, who has already hinted that he may even run for the presidency. Because of his rivalry with President Solih. reaches its peak.
Meanwhile, the opposition parties under the leadership of Yameen are giving free rein to the anti-India protests. He has emerged as the only opposition leader who can stand to take on President Solih. But it also depends on what the court there decides.
Recently, while addressing a gathering, Yameen said that he had “no personal grudge” against India, and would consider it a friendly country if voted back to power. But, he said, he would do so only if India “respects the independence and sovereignty of the country”.