Foreign Policy Watch: India-Maldives

Jun, 15, 2018

[op-ed snap] Islands apart: on India-Maldives ties

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | India & its neighborhood- relations

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Rising discontent between India & Maldives and need for its early resolution


Context

Soaring ties between India and the Maldives

  1. There has been a series of setbacks in India-Maldives ties, starting from March 2015 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi canceled a visit
  2. Recent moves by Abdulla Yameen, President of the Maldives, have put Malé on a collision course with New Delhi
  3. India criticised the government for its incarceration of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed, sentenced to 19 months in prison for an alleged plot to unseat Mr. Yameen

Discontent among partners

  1. The strain is now evident in two areas where India-Maldives ties had been the strongest: strategic relations and people-to-people engagement
  2. The Maldives has conveyed to India that it will not extend beyond June 30 the lease of Indian helicopters or the visas of personnel manning them
  3. This signals a marked downturn in defense cooperation between the two countries, which normally coordinate maritime and EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) patrols together
  4. Hundreds of Indians offered employment in the Maldives at resorts, hospitals and colleges have been denied work visas for the past few months

Change in stance

  1. Until a few years ago, the Maldives affirmed an “India First” policy
  2. India’s vocal protests on democratic rights in the Maldives have been at variance with the past policy of taking a more muted line in public while encouraging democracy in official conversations

Way forward

  1. The Yameen government must reconsider these policies
  2. India too must pause to consider why relations have soured so badly
Feb, 22, 2018

[op-ed snap] The game of chicken in the Arabian Sea

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | India and its neighborhood- relations.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Operation Cactus, geography of the East Indian Ocean.

Mains level: The newscard discusses an offensive show off by the Chinese Navy in Indian Ocean, for baking Abdulla Yameen’s government. And suggests some possible options to Indian government.


News

What is the issue?

  1. The ongoing crisis in the Maldives has acquired a particularly serious dimension
  2. In that time, several reports have emerged suggesting China may be directly backing Abdulla Yameen’s decision to impose—and extend—the emergency in the small island state
  3. These reports suggest that China has implicitly promised support to Yameen in the event that India moves to forcibly change the political status quo there

Chinese Navy presence in the Indian Ocean

  1. Earlier this month, a Chinese naval surface action group (SAG) of three ships entered the eastern Indian Ocean through the Sunda Straits
  2. The question then is about the timing and intent of the SAG deployment this time around
  3. While there is no definitive way of answering this question, several facts suggest that this is related to the ongoing crisis in the Maldives
  4. In order to stall an Operation Cactus kind-of-operation, China is signalling India that it has the muscle to push Indian forces out of the Maldives if it so chooses.

Why would China choose to signal(through its navy presence in Indian Ocean) that it is not averse to a power-play with India over the Maldives from thousands of miles away?

  1. The answer comes from studying Chinese naval behaviour over the past few years carefully
  2. China has pioneered what Western experts call “grey zone coercion”
  3. It is a strategy by which China seeks to meet its strategic objective without crossing its adversary’s threshold for conventional military retaliation
  4. By choosing to message its resolve to India from a distance, Beijing ensured that India would not be provoked militarily and yet be compelled to take into account the strategic signal emanating from the east

What are India’s options?

  1. India must continue to keep up a robust presence in the Arabian Sea
  2. The Indian Navy must also be allowed to expand its presence operations in the South China Sea, long considered a Chinese preserve
  3. China’s vulnerabilities in its near-seas must be taken advantage of by Indian naval planners
  4. India must have an alternative plan ready for the Maldives, just in case naval posturing does not beget an optimal solution
Feb, 10, 2018

Modi, Trump discuss Maldives; China says in touch with India, don’t want new flashpoint

Image source

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Effect of policies & politics of developed & developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Maldives (map based)

Mains level: India’s diplomatic stance on various international issues


News

Concern on the political crisis

  1. India and the US have expressed concern about the “political crisis in the Maldives”
  2. Both underlined “the importance of respect for democratic institutions and rule of law”

India-China in close coordination

  1. Beijing and Delhi were in touch over the ongoing crisis in the Maldives
  2. They did not want it to become another “flashpoint” in bilateral ties

India keeping a close watch

  1. India’s official statement about situation was: “All countries can play a constructive role in the Maldives, instead of doing the opposite”
  2. India was simply indicating that it was closely watching the situation in the Indian Ocean and hoped that all regional powers play a constructive role
  3. The statement also indicated that Delhi is not about to abandon its stake in the neighborhood
  4. India usually declines comment on relations between other countries and thus restrained from giving one such about Maldives-China relations
Feb, 09, 2018

[op-ed snap] Why India should intervene in Maldives

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | India & its neighborhood- relations

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Operation Cactus

Mains level: Crises in India’s neighbourhood and how to deal with them


Context

Political crisis in the Maldives

  1. The Maldives is in the midst of a deep political crisis
  2. President Abdulla Yameen has declared a state of emergency just days after the Supreme Court of the nation ordered the release of political prisoners
  3. Yameen has not only refused to abide by the orders of the judiciary but has gone ahead and arrested Supreme Court judges and members of the opposition

Previous intervention by India in Maldives?

  1. India has indeed intervened militarily in the Maldives once earlier
  2. It conducted Operation Cactus in 1988
  3. The intervention by Indian paratroopers was at the invitation of the then dictator-president, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom
  4. He was facing a coup attempt by Sri Lankan mercenaries working for a Maldivian businessman

Should India intervene again to repair the situation in the Maldives?

  1. In the current situation, the demand for Indian intervention is by the opposition forces in the Maldives
  2. But the reasons for India’s intervention today are far more compelling
  3. Ever since Yameen took power in 2013, India-Maldives relations have deteriorated
  4. Yameen has courted Beijing and handed out big infrastructure projects to Chinese companies
  5. He has openly challenged New Delhi by allowing Chinese naval ships to dock in Malé
  6. Yameen’s relations with Saudi Arabia and the growing trend of radicalization in the Maldives are also a cause for concern
  7. If Yameen stays without much alteration in Maldives’ internal balance of power, he will only be emboldened to act further against Indian interests

India’s stand and it’s strategic implications

  1. It might make sense for India to sit out the internal affairs of faraway countries
  2. But to do so in small, neighbouring countries will take away the mantle of regional leadership
  3. India’s interventions in neighbouring countries will please some and alienate some, but that should be an acceptable cost for furthering Indian interests in the region

What other global powers do/are doing?

  1. The plethora of interventions in other countries have earned the US a whole host of enemies but one cannot credibly think of a global superpower staying out of major crises just to earn some goodwill
  2. In recent months, China has helped mount a coup against dictator Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe and has brokered an alliance of left parties in Nepal to fight the Nepali Congress, the party in power

Constraints in Indian intervention

  1. India’s first priority is to ensure the safety of Indian tourists and workers in the Maldives
  2. India’s intervention should be surgical, that is, one which makes the Yameen government capitulate without harming the people of Maldives
  3. The use of a blunt instrument like the economic blockade in Nepal in 2015-16 might have temporarily brought the then K.P. Oli government to its knees but it also generated a backlash against India in Nepal’s hilly areas
  4. The choice of instrument should be such that it doesn’t make India a long-term participant in the partisan domestic affairs of Maldives

Way forward

  1. New Delhi should remember that if one petty dictator in the region is allowed to go scot-free after harming India’s interests, there will be more of them in future
Dec, 08, 2017

[op-ed snap] Island hopping

Image Source

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | India and its neighborhood- relations.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Geographical Position of Maldives in the South Asia

Mains level: Concerns and worries discussed in the newscard


News

China’s diplomatic success in the South Asia

  1. The announcement of a free trade agreement between the Maldives and China is another sign of China’s success in its outreach in South Asia
  2. China already has an FTA with Pakistan, and is exploring or negotiating FTAs with Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal
  3. The negotiations with the Maldives took about three years and were completed in September this year and it was ratified overnight by Parliament in Male

India’s reaction on the Madives-China FTA

  1. India has made no public statement
  2. It has reportedly made its displeasure known, particularly on the speed and stealth with which the negotiations were completed

The rapid growth in China-Maldives ties

  1. The growth is driven by massive infrastructure projects, including the development of Hulhule island and the “Friendship” bridge connecting it to Male
  2. Apart from investments of $1 billion, Chinese companies are exploring tourism prospects in the Maldives, leases to resort islands, and reclamation projects

Worries for India

  1. The Maldives government also said this week that it is not satisfied with the working of the FTA with India
  2. The manner in which the FTA was rushed through Parliament, with opposition members complaining they had not received enough notice, suggests a haste that would naturally worry India
  3. The move also shows that the Yameen government is not inclined to pay much heed to international concerns over internal unrest
  4. The biggest worry for India is that the FTA will draw the Maldives more closely into China’s security net
  5. Although Maldivian government has categorically stated that the Maldives will remain a “demilitarised zone”
  6. But there are concerns that the PLA-Navy might be looking for a military base in the islands linked to projects in Djibouti, Gwadar and Hambantota

 

Dec, 01, 2017

New Delhi caught by surprise as Maldives seals FTA with China

Note4Students

Mains Paper 2 | Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora

The following things are important from UPSC perspective:

Prelims: FTA

Mains level: The news card talks about the China-Maldives FTA


News

Context

Maldives-China FTA

    1. In a sudden move that has sent alarm bells ringing in New Delhi, Maldives rammed through its Free Trade Agreement with China in the Maldivian parliament last night in a session attended by only 30 out of 85 members
  • The haste with which the government, led by President Abdulla Yameen, decided to pass the pact the session took barely half an hour is being perceived here as Male trying to cosy up to China.
  1. This is Maldives’s first FTA with any country, and China’s second FTA with any country in South Asia after Pakistan.
  2. There are concerns that it could lead to increased Chinese military presence in the island nation.

Background

  1. This comes in the backdrop of Yameen planning to visit Beijing in December.
  2. This will be a reciprocal visit after the first-ever visit by Chinese president Xi Jinping to Maldives in September 2014.
  3. Maldives is the only country in the neighbourhood which has not been visited by Prime Minister in the last three-and-half years after he cancelled a proposed trip in March 2015 due to the turbulent political situation.
  4. Maldives and India do not have a Free Trade Agreement.

Views of Maldives Government

  1. According to the Maldives Presidential office’s statement, the FTA will enable exemption of duties on fisheries products exported to the world’s largest consumer market.
  2. Maldives transitioned from Least Developed Country (LDC) to Middle-Income Country status on 1st January 2011.
  3. However, this growth was accompanied with huge duties levied on fish products exported to the international market,” the statement said.
  4. Also, Maldivian government has extended invitations to establish free trade agreements with countries including Japan, the United States of America, the United Kingdom and countries of the European Union.
  5. However, it doesn’t name India.

Views of Maldivian Opposition

  1. Criticizing the FTA with China, Opposition leader emphasized that such an agreement will be detrimental to our economy as balance of trade is greatly in favor of China.
  2. Also, the FTA cannot be implemented until the legislation is passed.
  3. The Opposition demanded that the implementation of the FTA with China should be suspended till a proper feasibility study is conducted.

 

 

Jun, 02, 2016

Maldives opposition forms shadow govt. in London; seeks help from India

  1. Context: A new multi-party opposition platform was launched in London that pledged to lead the fight for the restoration of democracy in the Maldives
  2. Maldives United Opposition: Former Vice-President of the Maldives, now living in exile in the United Kingdom, Dr. Mohamed Jameel Ahmed will head the Shadow Cabinet of the newly formed opposition
  3. Mr. Nasheed: The first democratically elected leader of the Maldives who was recently given political asylum in the UK, chose to take a back seat in the Shadow Cabinet with the post of Advisor
  4. India: One of the first tasks of the new party would be to formally seek recognition and assistance for their cause from India
  5. China: The Maldivian opposition has been critical of the growing economic footprint of China in the Maldives
  6. Opposition believes that Mr. Yameen has encouraged China to counter India’s influence in the Indian Ocean region
May, 24, 2016

U.K. grants refugee status to Nasheed

  1. Refuge: The former Maldives President Mohamad Nasheed has been granted refugee status by the United Kingdom
  2. Background: Nasheed was the first democratically elected head of state of Maldives
  3. He was convicted and jailed in the Maldives in 2015 after a trial
  4. The trial attracted international criticism, including from the United Nations Group on Arbitrary Detention
  5. Let go: He was allowed to travel to London for medical treatment by the Govt of President Abdulla Yameen in January 2016
Apr, 12, 2016

Maldives thanks India for support

  1. News: Abdullah Yameen has thanked India for “protecting” Maldives from possible punitive actions from the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG)
  2. Reason: In Nov 2015, Yameen declared national emergency ahead of a big wave of protests against his political opponents
  3. CMAG had been asking Maldives to move towards genuine democracy
Apr, 11, 2016

India may sign pact against terror with the Maldives-

  1. Context: Maldives President Abdullah Yameen’s forthcoming visit to India
  2. News: A crucial counter-terror pact is likely to be among the list of agreements between the two countries
  3. Reason: Maldives has been seeking regional support to deal with extremism as 40 of its citizens are fighting for IS
  4. Both sides are also working on an agreement on double taxation avoidance in the field of international air transport
Nov, 05, 2015

Democracy suspended in the Maldives

President Abdulla Yameen declared a state of emergency in the Maldives citing danger to the lives of the citizens and threat to national security.

  1. The emergency measures effectively snatches away the freedoms that followed the August 2008 Constitution.
  2. The Emergency was imposed to pre-empt a mass rally by the main Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party, which could have negatively impacted the law and order situation.
  3. Critics point that the emergency is one of the tool in the hands of the Maldivian govt. to crack down on political opponents.
Oct, 23, 2015

India-Maldives ties at a peak: envoy

The India-Maldives relationship has been restored to a comfortable plane after several months of tensions.

  1. The governments are also ready to sign a Mutual Legal Assistance treaty (MLAT).
  2. India’s objective was to create a more harmonious Maldives.
Oct, 12, 2015

India, Maldives to step up cooperation in defence, security

Both countries decided to ramp up cooperation in various fields including defence, security, energy and health.

  1. MoUs on cooperation between Foreign Service Institutes of both countries and for cooperation sports and youth affairs.
  2. Maldives has supported India for a permanent member of a reformed and expanded UN Security Council.
Jul, 24, 2015

Maldives assures India of keeping the Indian Ocean a demilitarized zone

The assurance comes in the backdrop of Maldivian Parliament’s approval to allow foreign ownership of its islands.

  1. The obvious beneficiary of this move will be China which can acquire islands and atolls in the Maldives.
  2. It will also give a huge boost to the Chinese Maritime Silk Road initiative.
May, 12, 2015

Maldives' political crisis

  1. March ’15 – Former president Mohamed Nasheed is jailed for 13 years after being found guilty on terrorism charges.
  2. Nasheed is the country’s first democratically elected president after 30 years of autocracy.
  3. The verdict, which his party says is politically motivated, elicits international concern from governments and rights groups.
  4. With Nasheed’s (more pro-India than the Yameen government) arrest, India risks having the Maldives slip out of its strategic area of influence entirely.