A setback to India’s plan to expand footprints in Indian Ocean as Maldives President Yameen officially refused to renew the Letter of Exchange of the Chopper. He also asked India to complete the process of removal of both Indian choppers by June end.
What actually Happened?
India had gifted 2 ALH helicopters to the Maldives. The Yameen government became ‘upset’ about the presence of Indian navy staff on their soil. So, now they are asking Indian government to remove its second ‘gift’ naval chopper (ALH Dhruv) from the Laamu atoll. India had stationed six pilots and over a dozen ground personnel to operate the ALHs.
The location of Laamu is significant as the China is considering building a port. This was further confirmed by the statement of Maldives ambassador to China Mohamed Faisal said earlier this year.
“Even Addu (location of the other Indian chopper) is significant as it is located at Equatorial Channel and close to Diego Garcia. It seems Male wants to rid both these strategic locations of any Indian footprint,” said a government official who didn’t want to be quoted.
Past, Present & Future of India-Maldives relations
Indian relations with Maldives were good until the current President Abdulla Yameen imposed a state of emergency for a period of 45 days. This gave him absolute powers to send security forces into the Supreme Court building. All this happened to refuse to comply with the Maldives Supreme Court decision to release imprisoned opposition lawmakers.
This incident also saw India and China on opposite ends. India wanted to restore Democracy in Maldives and China wanted India not to indulge in Maldives internal matters.
India gave cold treatment to Maldives as India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has said that even though the neighboring country has received several invitations to visit Maldives, they refrain from visiting the country since the Maldivian government has not met some of their requests.
India later set to expand its presence in the Indian Ocean and also to counter the growth of China influence. Thus, India gifted Maldives Choppers. These choppers insured India’s presence in the archipelago as well checking Chinese growth too. Now, Maldives has asked India to take them back. This would dent India’s strategic expansion.
India acts as peace-maker in the neighboring countries. Thus, India took the responsibility for free and fair elections there. It is the talk of the town that Yameen is in complete control of all state institutions including election commission and judiciary.
In the nearer future, India has to choose between the Maldives and Indonesia for the Asia-Pacific non-permanent UNSC seat. India is not sure if it wants to vote in favor of Maldives. It also doesn’t want to be on the losing side and thus, sour the relation with either of them. So, it is waiting to see if Indonesia can enlist support from 129 UN member states.