Alarm bells ring for India
In order to increase its influence in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), China is increasing its economic footprint in the Maldives by not only establishing a fully functioning embassy but also assisting with the development of Maldives’ second international airport at Hanimaadhoo. China has also exercised diplomatic pressure and is lobbying diligently to win crucial development projects on the Ihavandhoo and Maarandhoo Islands. In efforts to facilitate critically needed energy imports and ensure the security of its sea-lanes, China plans to create transshipment ports on the islands for its own benefit. The country has previously collaborated with the Seychelles, Mauritius, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Cambodia and Pakistan.
Incidentally, both islands in question lie to the north of the Maldives, uncomfortably close to India and Sri Lanka, thereby causing a flurry within the Indian government. China has already been accused of building a ‘string of pearls’ or creating pockets of influence to encircle India. The news comes amidst clouded reports
that China is seeking to build a naval submarine base in Marao. A visit by Wu Bangguo, Chairman of the standing committee of the Chinese National People’s Congress, to Male earlier in May has also caused heightened discomfort, forcing India to increase its military presence in the Maldives.