While the Male government led by President Mohamed Muizzu continues to be adamant on allowing Chinese “spy” vessel, equipped to carry research and surveys, to dock at a Maldivian port despite India’s security concerns, the global community including the US must call out Maldives for not addressing the concerns that New Delhi has flagged over the development. The US and other major countries of the world including European nations must come out with an unequivocal statement against Maldives allowing the Chinese ship to make a port call. The international community should also give a strong message to Maldives for its adversarial attitude towards India.
In fact, Maldives allowing a spy ship from Beijing to dock in the maritime backyard of India has strategic and security implications not only for New Delhi but also for other countries of the world including the US. The Maldives is adjacent to one of the densest trading routes in the world. Over 80 per cent of energy imports to the Indian subcontinent pass through the shipping lane to the north of the Maldives. This is one of the major reasons why the global community should focus on the development in the maritime backyard of India. The international community should not hesitate to criticize Male’s anti-New Delhi stance in the backdrop of this development. French President Emannuel Macron, who is currently on visit to India as chief guest for Republic Day celebrations in Delhi to be held today, should also send out a meaningful message to both China and Maldives on security concerns that India has raised. Diplomats in New Delhi rightly say that it will create an impact if Macron does so.When Sri Lanka had allowed a Chinese research ship to dock near Colombo, the US joined India to convey its concerns to the Sri Lankan government over the same.
Then, US Under Secretary Victoria Nuland had raised concerns about the visit of the Chinese research vessel Shi Yan 6 to Sri Lanka. The pressure that India and the US mounted on Colombo together has now yielded positive results. This month, Sri Lanka finally declared a moratorium on foreign research ships entering its waters for a year amid concerns from India and the US over Chinese research vessels docking in New Delhi’s neighbourhood. This was a setback for China.
What the international community is well aware of is that China dispatches its research and surveillance vessels to the Indian Ocean Region. After Sri Lanka’s moratorium, it has turned to newly-elected Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu who is already known for having a soft corner for Beijing. The Muizzu government’s permission to the Chinese vessel to dock at Male near India’s maritime doorstep is a clear example of his being a pro-China leader. This is something that the entire global community must keep its focus on. Even the two major opposition parties in Maldives have expressed concerns about the Muizzu government’s anti-India stance.
These parties have called India as the most long-standing ally. Significantly, the open support by the two parties- the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and the Democrats—came a day after the Maldives government said a Chinese ship will be docking at a Maldivian port after being permitted by the Male government to make a port call for replenishment. With the voice of concern over what is being dubbed as Muizzu’s “anti-India” stance surfacing in Maldives, the US and the European countries must also call out Male for turning a blind eye to the points that India has highlighted as security issues in the Indian Ocean in the midst of China sending its vessels. This is the right time for the same.
This development should not be taken lightly, as Maldives would be allowing more such ships from China in future, which will disturb the security ecosystem of the region. Maldives has already issued a statement saying that it will continue to welcome ships from friendly countries in its waters. Apart from the US, Australia and Japan who are Quad partners with India must also send out a terse message to China over all this.
All these countries have been concerned about growing expansionist and aggressive behaviour of China in the Indo-Pacific and Indian Ocean Region. If Maldives continues to allow China to send ships to strategic maritime regions like this, the practice will embolden Beijing in other maritime regions like the Indo-Pacific, South China Sea and East China Sea. The need of the hour is that there should be a collective effort on the part of the global community to ensure that this practice is stopped immediately.