India to open ‘strategic base’ close to Maldives in a counter-measure to Muizzu’s pro-China policy

Indian Navy to open strategic base near Maldives
Image Source : PTI Representational Image

New Delhi: India has announced to bolster its military presence near Maldives– a move which has widely been apprehended as a counterstep to the archipelago President’s inclination towards China. The Indian Navy’s major announcement came merely days before Male had set a deadline for Indian troops to return to their country.

In a statement released on Saturday, the Indian Navy said it is bolstering forces on “strategically important” islands close to the Maldives. The new base will be opened on March 6 on Lakshadweep islands. It said it would turn an existing small detachment into an “independent naval unit”.

With the latest development, it will bring about 258 kilometres closer to Male. “Minicoy is the southernmost island of Lakshadweep which straddles the vital sea lines of communications,” the Navy said.

According to the statement, the base will boost anti-piracy and anti-narcotic operations and was part of a policy to “incrementally augment security infrastructure at the strategically important” islands.

Why India took action against Maldives

Notably, the relations between both nations rocked in January following some Maldives ministers’ contentious remarks against Prime Minister Narendra Modi who had visited Lakshadweep island. This triggered a major uproar on social media, encouraging Indians to cancel their scheduled trips to Male. However, the relationship had nosedived even before Mohamed Muizzu became President of the island nation. Muizzu, who has been considered a pro-China candidate, started the election campaign with slogans against India.  

When he took charge, Muizzu met PM Modi in Dubai at a climate conference where he urged the Indian leader to remove their military presence from his country. Later, officials from both nations met in New Delhi and Male claimed India agreed to call back their personnel– a claim which the Ministry of External Affairs is yet to confirm.

Civilian crew replacing Indian soldiers arrives in line with Muizzu’s ‘India out’ campaign

Earlier last week, Maldives said that the first group of civilians who would replace the Indian troops and handle the helicopters provided by New Delhi for medical purposes in Male arrived and took charge. According to the statement released by the Maldivian Defence Ministry on Monday, “The civilian crew who will operate the helicopter in place of the Indian troops currently stationed in Seenu Gan (Addu city) has arrived in Maldives this evening.”

Also Read: ‘Maldives couldn’t be found on maps 25 years ago but India…’: Ex-Defence Min as she calls Muizzu ‘immature’