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Editorial: Politics of Diplomacy- India-Maldives relations: Don’t overreact

 

The geopolitical landscape in South Asia has undergone a discernible shift since Mohamed Muizzu assumed the presidency in the Maldives, marking a gradual realignment away from India towards China. This transition is underscored by the China-Maldives joint statement, indicating a deepening camaraderie between the two nations and raising concerns about India's diminishing influence.

Diplomatic tensions have intensified, evident in veiled references to India's "bullying" during Muizzu's visit and the Maldivian delegation proposing the removal of Indian troops by March 15. Such moves highlight escalating diplomatic strains that demand careful attention and adept diplomatic finesse.

Economically, the Maldives stands at a crossroads as it navigates between its historical economic ties with India and the growing economic influence of China. India has played a crucial role in the Maldivian economy, providing assistance during crises such as the 2004 tsunami and the drinking water shortage a decade later. However, China's strategic interests in the Indian Ocean, reflected in economic investments and infrastructure projects, present an enticing alternative. For India, maintaining economic ties and emphasizing mutual benefits becomes crucial amidst this geopolitical realignment.

Socially, the political see-saw in Male has implications for the Maldivian populace. President Muizzu's "India Out" campaign reflects a sentiment that needs careful understanding. India's engagement should extend beyond diplomacy, fostering people-to-people connections, cultural exchanges, and grassroots collaborations. Addressing the concerns and aspirations of the Maldivian people is essential to stabilizing the social fabric amid shifting geopolitical currents.

Geopolitically, the Maldives' geographical proximity to India and its inclination towards China have broader strategic implications. India's role as a regional power cannot be understated, and its response to the geopolitical maneuvers of smaller neighbors like the Maldives must be nuanced. Balancing India's strategic interests with the Maldives' evolving alignment with China necessitates a diplomatic strategy that safeguards India's security concerns without alienating its neighbors. Managing geopolitical tensions with foresight is imperative to prevent further destabilization in the region.

From an international relations perspective, the Maldives' foreign policy choices contribute to the complex web of alliances and alignments in South Asia. Smaller nations often leverage the competition between major powers to secure their interests. India must navigate these intricacies, understanding that not every country will align with its priorities. Engaging in diplomatic dialogue, showcasing collaboration benefits, and emphasizing shared interests can help India maintain a favorable international position amidst evolving geopolitical dynamics.

The importance of the Maldives for India cannot be overstated. Beyond historical ties and economic interdependence, the Maldives holds strategic significance due to its proximity to the Indian coast. From natural disasters like the 2004 tsunami to crises like the drinking water shortage, India has consistently been the first to provide aid to the Maldives. This proximity allows for swift response and collaborative efforts in times of need.

Strategically, the Maldives serves as a key player in the Indian Ocean region, influencing maritime security and stability. Any shift in the geopolitical orientation of the Maldives can impact India's strategic interests in the region. As a regional power, India must continue to engage with the Maldives, recognizing the inherent importance of this relationship.

Key Points:

  1. China-Maldives Bonhomie: The China-Maldives joint statement after Muizzu's visit signifies a growing camaraderie between the two nations, raising concerns about India's diminishing influence.
  2. Diplomatic Tensions: References to India's "bullying" during Muizzu's visit and the proposal to remove Indian troops by the Maldivian delegation indicate escalating diplomatic tensions.
  3. Political Dynamics in Male: The political see-saw in Male, with Muizzu's "India out" campaign following Solih's pro-India stance, highlights the volatile nature of Maldivian politics impacting external orientation.
  4. Limited Strategic Significance: The call for the removal of Indian troops is seen as more political than strategic, given India's reported troop strength of fewer than 90 soldiers in the Maldives.
  5. India's Significant Role: Despite political shifts, India continues to play a substantial role in Maldivian politics, reflecting its military, economic, and strategic influence in the region.
  6. Challenges in India's Internal Politics: Some aspects of India's internal politics, like expansionist rhetoric and issues related to religion and migration, create discomfort among neighboring nations.
  7. Social Media Jingoism: Instances of social media jingoism and calls for boycotting smaller neighbors contribute to the complexities of diplomatic relations.
  8. Measured Diplomatic Response: External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar advocates a measured response, acknowledging the dynamism of politics and the likelihood of not garnering universal support.
  9. Geopolitical Realities: The "India Out" sentiment in the Maldives reflects an all-or-nothing approach, disregarding the geographical proximity and convergent interests between the nations.
  10. India's Regional Significance: India's strategic proximity to the Maldives (700 km from the Indian coast) compared to China (over 6,000 km) underscores its regional significance.
  11. Historical Assistance: Past instances of India's prompt assistance during crises, such as the 2004 tsunami and drinking water crisis, demonstrate the depth of the bilateral relationship.
  12. Need for Continued Engagement: Despite challenges, Delhi must maintain diplomatic engagement with Male and the Maldivian people, balancing assertiveness with diplomatic finesse.
  13. Resilience as a Regional Power: As the regional power, India is advised to exhibit resilience and avoid being overly sensitive to regional developments, emphasizing a long-term strategic approach.

 

In conclusion, the Maldives' shifting geopolitical stance under President Muizzu demands a holistic approach from India. Beyond economic ties, India must prioritize people-to-people connections, navigate geopolitical challenges with finesse, and emphasize shared interests on the international stage. The strategic importance of the Maldives for India underscores the need for adept diplomacy to ensure stability and collaboration in the rapidly evolving South Asian geopolitical landscape.

 

 

Imp for: UPSC Prelims, UPSC GS Mains Paper II, GS Mains Paper III

Topic: Current Affairs, Geopolitical Shifts, Diplomatic Tensions, Economic Considerations, And Regional Significance

 

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