Sunday, 22 March 2015

Nasheed's Arrest & Impact on South Asia + China

Beginning from where I left earlier with the Maldivian Crisis - The Second Part goes as - 

Traditionally, India had been dominating over the Indian Ocean with a considerable influence over small island nations in the region particularly Mauritius and Maldives. (Mauritius has about 70% Indian Expatriates)

As soon as Nasheed was toppled in 2012, the bilateral relations between the two countries took a nosedive. The cancellation of the GMR contract and Nasheed taking refuge in the Indian High Commission in Male were two main incidents that somewhat vitiated the goodwill of India.

Back in 2013, when Nasheed took refuge in the Indian High Commission, Indian negotiators were successful in brokering a deal with the current Maldivian government which prevented Nasheed’s arrest and allowed him to participate in 2018 elections. But, now with his arrest, the government has already asked Indian authorities ‘to respect the Panchsheel doctrine and not to interfere in their internal matters’. In such a situation, the best India could do was to express concern over the arrest and manhandling of Nasheed. It asked the stakeholders to resolve differences within the constitutional framework.  

As mentioned earlier, Maldives play a vital cog in the Indian Ocean. It's strategic significance to both India and China has led to a silent truce between the two. 

The sea lanes in the Indian Ocean are seen as Asia's economic arteries that love to trade with Middle East and Europe. The hunger for oil by both these countries is fed only by traversing through the Indian Ocean's Exclusive Economic Zone. 

To counter the China-effectIndia forged a trilateral maritime agreement with Sri Lanka and Maldives. The underlying objectives of this cooperation is to assert its presence in the eyes of Pakistan and China. (China holds control on two ports in Pakistan (Gwadar) and Sri Lanka (Humbantota). But, Modi-led government's diplomacy is par excellence. They have managed to extend their maritime security agreement to Seychelles and Mauritius which is famously known as IO-5. 

In case, there is a Sino-Indian war in the future, India could block Chinese ships in the ocean without much of a difficulty. But this is possible only if these nations remain friendly towards us and doesn’t turn hostile due to the economic pressure posed by this ‘hard’ power. It’s been there in news for some time now that China has maximized its Navy Defense budget in vast proportions with about 35% increment.

West especially US is favouring India because it sees India as a counter to China in the long run and will be a balancing power in Asia. (Remember US’ Asian Pivot). Seeing this as threat, China has developed a strategy – String of Pearls wherein it’ll develop military and economic ties with the littoral countries of Indian Ocean. Though it is not being vocal about it but the development of naval ports surrounding the Indian coast is a testimony to this fact. Also, asking Maldives to be a part of its Maritime Silk Route Project is much bigger cause of concern to India.

Threat to India from both China and Pakistan

·    India needs strong allies in the neighbourhood so that it doesn’t succumb to ‘any external pressures’ and doesn’t become a victim of ‘Chinese’ Ocean in the long run.

·    Pakistan, on the other hand could use Maldives as a launch pad for terrorists targeting India. Post 26/11, Indian Navy and Coast Guard have strengthened their security in and around the coastal regions of Mumbai and Gulf of Cambay. So, Lashkar-e-Toiba and other similar outfits might set up a base in Maldives and transport men and material from there to Kerela and to other parts of India.

Probable Steps India Could Take

·    Overly indulging in the internal affairs of any nation may lead to Indian desposition in the long run and such countries might take support of ‘foreign’ (read enemy) powers to rescue them in any untoward situation in the future. But, this certainly doesn’t mean not to help at all. Because not doing anything will also alienate Nasheed’s MDP party which has pro-Indian leanings.

·      India should not also not impose democracy and democratic institutions on its neighbouring countries (Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives) because the result of imposition are well-known to all. What happened in the Middle East under the aegis of Jasmine Revolution should not be repeated elsewhere in the world; else it’ll create ripples across. Democracy is a natural process and countries should come in line with their unique cultural and historical realities. 

·   To keep an eye on the growing influence of China and radical Islam (supported by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia) is where lies the real threat and to avert such a situation, it needs to step up its intelligence gathering efforts. As the leading British daily – Guardian quoted, Maldives could end up becoming a paradise for Jihadis from where Jihad could be exported to other countries like India to which they can travel easily.

The world knows that Yameen is not pro-India as we would like it to be but the red lines need to be clearly defined and properly conveyed to the government which could affect India’s strategic interests. Thus, India shouldn’t hesitate to take any kind of action to circumvent it. 

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