China, ISIS threats get India, US together in Sri Lanka and Maldives
Indian Defence News:
- China has consolidated its hold on Maldives, building infra with its standard predatory pricing methods.
- China’s infra push is natural given that China is possibly a world leader in land reclamation.
- China’s financing mechanisms mean that it could be controlling large areas of Maldives fairly soon.
NEW DELHI: China’s aggressive play in the Indian Ocean region has prompted US and India to coordinate closely in Sri Lanka and Maldives — two countries strategically vital for India. This is a far cry from the years when India worked hard to keep the US out of South Asia, now US and India are working together to counter expanding Chinese influence.
Maldives is a matter of particular concern. China has consolidated its hold on the island, building infrastructure with its standard predatory pricing methods. Unlike in Sri Lanka where the Sirisena government is trying to fix its books, president Yameen in Maldives seems perfectly comfortable with growing amounts of debt to China. China’s infrastructure push is natural given that China is possibly a world leader in land reclamation — it’s the add-ons that are of concern to India+ . China’s financing mechanisms mean that China could be controlling large areas of Maldives fairly soon. There is a real concern about China’s presence in iHavan project on Maldives’ northernmost atoll, sitting in the middle of the busiest transit point between the Middle East and Southeast Asia — and very close to Lakshadweep islands.
Chinese submarines+ want to use the only viable channel in that region for their forays into the south-central Indian Ocean — allowing them control over this channel would be against Indian interests, said sources.
In August, Yameen disregarded India’s request to deny permission to three Chinese warships — as retaliation, India invited Mohamed Nasheed to Delhi, his first visit here since his exile. Yameen is playing his version of hardball — Maldives repaid GMR’s dues earlier this year, and India suspects China put up the amount, although when it comes to SOS on drinking water, Yameen dials New Delhi.
India and US are also teaming up to monitor returning ISIS fighters into Maldives — this country of 3,50,000 has sent almost 400 ISIS fighters to Syria and Iraq (as a comparison, Sweden with 10 million people is contending with 300 returnees). Given restrictive conditions and remote atolls, these radicalised 18-30 year-olds could spell disaster. “There has been an explosion of extremist preachers in Maldives,” remarked a diplomat.
From a time when India persuaded the US to not bid for a monitoring station in Maldives for maritime surveillance for fear of attracting China, India and US have come a long way, largely because China has barrelled its way here, seriously impacting security concerns.
In Sri Lanka, Hambantota and Chinese presence there has spurred Washington’s interest — so it’s not for nothing that the US aircraft carrier Nimitz visited Sri Lanka last week, without a murmur from India. Sources said, “Indian and US warships keep the oceans free.”