India to add muscle to Male mission
With China expanding its footprint in the politically unstable Maldives, India has decided to open a defence wing in its High Commission and decided to post a senior army officer as first defence attaché (DA). The mission in Colombo was handling India-Maldives defence and security ties.
Government sources said the ministry of external affairs took the decision to post a DA in Maldives this month and a colonel-level officer of the Indian Army will soon be sent to push defence ties in Male. The decision comes at a time when the island nation's first democratically-elected president Mohammed Nasheed on Wednesday said he was forced to resign (Tuesday) at gun-point by the supporters of the new President Mohammed Waheed Hassan.
While New Delhi has had Male on its defence and security grid in the past, it wants to cement the defence ties further as Beijing is expanding its influence in Indian Ocean littoral states. Maldives virtually sits on the vital shipping routes to South and North Asia, which carry half of the world's goods and hydrocarbon trade from Gulf and Europe. Male had posted its DA in India in 2005.
The Indian establishment is concerned as China is showing keen interest in setting up transhipment ports in islands north of Haa Alif Atoll and wants a piece of the action in setting up the second international airport at Hanimaadhoo. Besides, there are reports of Chinese interested in setting up submarine base Maroa Islands. There is a 75% jump in tourists from China to Maldives in 2010.
though India has given Male military hardware to increase its surveillance and radar capabilities, interrogation reports of apprehended Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorists indicate that Pak-based groups are actively setting up base in the island nation to radicalise the population.