Strengthening Defense Ties
The Maldives Defense Minister, Mohamed Nazim recently visited China to meet with the Chinese Defense Minister, General Liang Guanglie in an attempt to deepen bilateral military ties. Both countries currently enjoy positive diplomatic engagements but hope to facilitate stronger defense relations. The visit from the Maldivian minister comes at a time when the island country is facing a diplomatic row with India over the cancellation of GMR Infrastructure’s contract to build the Male International Airport. However, Maldivian President Mohamed Waheed Hasan has denied any influence from China to oust the project.
China views the Maldives through its strategic location in the Indian Ocean. In an attempt to diplomatically and economically intimidate India, China has forged deeper ties with most of India’s neighbors and given South Asia’s largest democracy much reason to fret. The Maldivian Defense Minister believes that cementing relations between China and the Maldives will provide the island nation with the military skills it desperately needs. However, General Liang has expressed his views to maintain mutually beneficial relations with the Maldives and not to interfere in internal affairs. The Maldives has maintained peaceful relations with all its South Asian neighbors but creating military ties is a necessity. Furthermore, the Maldives holds a strategic location in the Indian Ocean as China’s Middle Eastern oil shipping routes from the Persian Gulf pass near the Maldiv- ian sea border. Therefore, the Maldives could be used as a shield to protect China’s maritime oil imports from the Middle East.
Though Sino-Maldivian diplomatic relations commenced in 1972, they were particularly strengthened during President Mohamed Nasheed’s tenure. Apart from the growth in the tourism industry, capital inflows from China are also a reason why the Maldives is anticipating a long lasting relationship with China.