Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Union government is on a spree to free the countries ensnared deep in the clutches of Chinese debt-trap diplomacy. Now joining New Delhi in this endeavor is the US led by its President Donald Trump and together, the two leaders are making sure that the geo-strategically important country of Maldives is taken back from the Chinese, for good and forever this time.
According to several media reports, the US has signed a framework for defense cooperation with the Maldives with the intent to deepen engagement in support of maintaining peace and security in the Indian Ocean and cull the threat of Chinese encroachment.
The framework for defence and security relationship was signed in Philadelphia on September 10 between US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for South and Southeast Asia Reed Werner and Maldivian Minister of Defense Mariya Didi.
The Pentagon further said that both sides reiterated their commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific that promotes the security and prosperity of all nations in the region,.
The threat of China in the Indo-Pacific and the South China Sea has been well-documented. The Xi Jinping regime claims its rights over the vast multitudes of the international waters and in doing so, routinely encroaches upon small countries like the Maldives.
By signing the defence agreement, Maldives would have a powerful ally in its corner and China would think twice before taking on the island country.
While the US has gone the military route to deepen its ties with the Maldives, India has chosen the economic path to sway the archipelago into its corner.
Reported by TFI, New Delhi had last month announced that it was going to provide half-a-billion dollar funding to the island nation for several Infrastructure projects that will, in turn, ‘change the face of the archipelago’.
The Greater Malé Connectivity Project (GMCP) is being billed as the largest ever infrastructure project in the country. The project will connect the capital city of Maldives- Malé with Villingili, Thilafushi and Gulhifalhu via bridges and causeways of a total length of 6.695 kilometres.
Warm and fruitful discussion with FM @abdulla_shahid of #Maldives. Agreed that the #COVID19 pandemic has brought the two nations even closer. We will be reliable partners in meeting both aspirations and challenges. pic.twitter.com/Pozmew1q3S
— Dr. S. Jaishankar (@DrSJaishankar) August 13, 2020
The $500 million financial package consisting of a grant of $100 million and a new Line of Credit (LOC) of $400 million came after a virtual meeting held between External affairs minister Dr. S. Jaishankar and Maldives Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid
By pouring massive investments in the region, India had killed two birds with one stone in the Indian Ocean Region. Firstly, killing China’s debt diplomacy in the Maldives and secondly, cementing its bilateral ties with the Maldives for a long period of time.
Former President Mohammed Nasheed, who is now President Solih’s advisor was visibly elated by the developments and had tweeted a heartfelt message to show his gratitude towards India. He had also taken a sly dig at China which had been bleeding the country dry with shark-loans.
The super low cost development assistance announced by @DrSJaishankar today is exactly what Maldives needs. Genuine help from a friend, to help us build critical infrastructure. Rather than eye-wateringly expensive commercial loans that leaves the nation mired in debt. @PMOIndia
— Mohamed Nasheed (@MohamedNasheed) August 13, 2020
India helping the Maldives, which had been at its lowest, has sent a message to the entire Indian subcontinent that New Delhi is willing to help them get out of the menace of Chinese debt-trap. All they need to do is extend the olive branch, just the way the Maldives under Solih did.
The previous Maldivian government used to be an ally of India but after Abdullah Yameen came to power in 2013, the permutations and combinations of the region changed completely.
Abdullah’s anti-western rhetoric and open support to the Islamization of the Maldivian society led to steep deterioration in relations with India. However, the ascension of Ibrahim Mohamed Solih in 2018 led to the parity being restored between the two nations.
India learned a lesson from the whole Abdullah Yameen episode and therefore made certain tweaks in its foreign policy. New Delhi through the Line of Credit is making its way deep into the Maldivian society, so that, even if there is a regime change and a madmen like Yameen comes into power again—the relations between the two countries will not be soured again.
Moreover, the fruition of the aforementioned two deals by Washington and New Delhi has become one of the final nails in the coffin for China and its horrendous debt-trap diplomacy. Maldives is all but gone from the clutches of China and the two members of the Quad have made it possible by working in tandem.