Sri Lanka Denies Permission To Chinese Survey Ships But Why Maldives Wants Beijing In Its Courtyard?

The strategic developments in the Indian Ocean have been a cause of concern for India and New Delhi has been conveying it to Sri Lanka and Maldives. The cause of concern is no other than China which wants to increase its presence and control in the Indian Ocean region. Sri Lanka has now understood the dragon’s strategy and perhaps why it has imposed a one-year ban on China’s ‘research ships’. Now in the name of research, no Chinese ship can enter the Exclusive Economic Zone of Sri Lanka. India has expressed concerns that Chinese research ships could be used by Beijing to track the Indian Army’s defence positions and conduct surveys in strategically important waters. In July, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had urged Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe to respect India’s strategic and security concerns. A few days later, on January 5, China’s research vessel Xiang Yang Hong 3 was about to begin deep-sea exploration in the South Indian Ocean, but Sri Lankan authorities refused to grant permission. This is a big blow for China because, after the Hambantota loan episode, it has not been able to woo the current leadership of Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe also visited Beijing in October but he did not fall into the trap of China. Hambantota Port belongs to Sri Lanka but by trapping it in debt, China has taken control of its operation for many decades.

While Sri Lanka’s decision to ban Chinese ships is a relief for India, New Delhi is yet to get things right with its other neighbour Maldives which is siding towards China. China has also asked the Maldives government to allow its 4,600-ton survey vessel to anchor off the Male coast. However, India and America have expressed concerns about the Chinese research ship asking the concerned nations not to provide any kind of support to Chinese ships and ballistic missile trackers in the Indian Ocean region.

India’s apprehension has also increased because, since 2019, a total of 48 Chinese scientific research ships have been deployed in the Indian Ocean. It is difficult to trust China anyway.

Maldives’ new President Mohamed Muizzu is said to be pro-China and won the elections on anti-India rhetorics. He has also asked India to withdraw its soldiers stationed in Male for relief and rescue operations. Recently, he also broke the agreement made with India under which the Indian Navy was allowed to conduct a survey in the waters of Maldives. The new President of Maldives is doing all this despite knowing the fact that India has been the first responder in times of crisis for Male. India has gifted naval helicopters to the Maldives but the new President of Maldives is adopting an anti-India approach to please his Chinese masters.

In fact, considering the strategic importance of the Maldives, China has been trying to woo it as well. Maldives may likely permit Chinese ships. India’s concern is that China can spy on India’s defence base under the guise of research ships. China’s interference in the sea around India is increasing and Maldives’ inclination towards China may further create problems in the region. Now China is using its tactics so to get a hold of Maldives to lead its anti-India agenda. Such a situation may further create problems for Maldives as well as the island nation may find it difficult to come out of the Chinese trap. However, one can only hope that President Mohamed Muizzu gets a reality check before it’s too late.