U.S. Status in Maldives
The U.S. has asked the Maldivian government to sign a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) to build military bases in the island country. This is a noteworthy move by the Obama administration which is looking for an aggressive pivot in its Asia strategy and envisions encircling China in the Indo-Pacific region.
Following a number of agreements signed between the U.S. and the Maldives in 2010, the former has access to Maldivian infrastructure. Washington signed an Acquisition and Cross Service Agreement in 2010 with Male allowing the U.S. to gain access to its airport and seaport facilities. It is expected that the SOFA will expand on the previous agreements.
According to the SOFA, the U.S. will enjoy physical presence in the Maldives, including access to military bases and to the island’s sea routes. Moreover, the strategic location of the Maldives is of interest to the U.S. as nearly 80 percent of the world’s seaborne trade in oil passes through Indian Ocean checkpoints. U.S. presence in the Indian Ocean can potentially threaten countries which depend on sea lanes for the transport of raw materials and energy supplies. It is obvious that the U.S. is increasing its naval activity to keep a check on China, which enjoys a vast demand for oil and minerals from the Middle East and Africa.