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Maldives vital to India's south Asia strategy

delhi Updated: Feb 08, 2012 00:04 IST
Jayanth Jacob

India is carefully monitoring the situation in Maldives after a police mutiny led to the resignation of its President Mohamed Nasheed on Tuesday. The uprising is a result of several weeks of political unrest in the strategically important Indian Ocean island cluster.

"We continue to closely monitor the situation in the Maldives and understand that the Indian expatriate community there is safe," the spokesperson for external affairs ministry said in a statement, reacting to the developments.

Maldives, a member of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), has a pivotal place in New Delhi's overall Indian Ocean and south Asia strategy because the political leadership has crucial security ties with New Delhi.

India also has a 30,000 strong expatriate population in Maldives.

Nasheed, who came to power in 2008, ending 30-year rule of Abdul Gayoom, too had outlined an "India-first policy." The framework agreement, cutting across many sectors, was signed during PM Manmohan Singh's visit to Maldives in November last year.

Maldives territorial claims include much of the mid-ocean area between Sri Lanka and Madagascar. Over 97% of India's international trade by volume and 75% by value passes through the Indian Ocean.

Despite close ties, New Delhi had expressed some concerns over the presence of Islamist in Maldives police and army.

But all the main political parties, including Nasheed's opponents, have a pro-India stance.

While Nasheed's aides have termed the development in the country as a coup. Indian embassy in Male has been playing the role of facilitator in bringing various political parties together to defuse the situation brewing since last December.

Maldives foreign secretary was in New Delhi about 10 days ago and had explained the situation. But in the past week or so, things took a dramatic turn. Official sources have so far refused to term the developments a coup or revolt.