Why the Chinese are not going away from Maldives anytime soon
New Delhi, Sep 25: The election results in Maldives came as a major relief to India, with the incumbent president, Abdulla Yameen losing to a unified opposition candidate, Ibrahim Solih.
Solih's victory is likely to put an end to two years of difficult relations between India and Maldives. India says that the results would open up a new chapter in bi-lateral ties. India had been under immense pressure domestically to act against Maldives as Yameen continued to drift away and cozy up to China. The pressure on India was more to do with the fact that Maldives is strategically located in the Indian Ocean and nation was giving away too much to China, which has remained a threat always.
India however decided to adopt a wait and watch game ever since Yameen used the judicial system to jail Supreme Court judges. Yameen then went on to send several political leaders to jail. He also went on to tell India to remove its helicopters and also cut visas for Indian workers.
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Yameen rapidly moved away from India, while cozying up to China and Saudi Arabia. China on the other hand much to the concern of India developed infrastructure while extending its presence in nearly 7 islands of importance.
With Solih set to take over in November, the question is will the Chinese influence in Maldives reduce? There may not be a reduction per se, but Solih is expected to correct the tilt towards the China.
Indian observers he would work closely with India and also accommodate Indian security interests.
However to say that the Chinese would be out of Maldives would be wishful thinking. With 70 per cent of Maldives' external debt to China and the continuing demand for infrastructure, the fact is that the Chinese are not going anywhere soon. The big solace for India is that the change in guard has brought it right back into the strategic game.
In the months to come India would have a completely different approach towards Maldives. At the top levels, officials would move quick in a bid to recover lost ground and time in Maldives.