NEW DELHI — Representatives from India and Maldives held talks here Monday to revitalize their defense ties.
The talks between visiting Maldivian Defence and National Security Minister Mohamed Nazim and Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony are important because this is the first visit by a Maldivian defense minister since the ousting of President Mohamed Nasheed in a coup last year, analysts said. Nasheed’s regime was considered closer to New Delhi than the new regime of President Mohamed Waheed, defense analysts said.
“During the meeting, both sides noted that defense cooperation between India and Maldives has been growing over the years to the mutual benefit of both sides. As close neighbors sharing common security concerns, there is scope to further develop the relationship in mutually agreed areas,” the Indian Defence Ministry said in a news release.
“India has direct interests in Maldives because of attempts by China to establish its basis in the Indian Ocean through the policy of String of Pearls,” said New Delhi-based defense analyst Nitin Mehta .
Before the overthrow of Nasheed last year, the two countries had strong defense ties.
“India, which has defense ties with the Indian Ocean archipelago now finds itself in a very peculiar situation as the ruling government in Maldives was not particularly inclined towards New Delhi,” Mehta said.
India signed a bilateral pact with the Maldives to counter China’s growing strategic presence in the Indian Ocean region in August 2009.
India also agreed to set up a network of 26 radars across the Maldives’ 26 atolls, which will be linked to the Indian coastal command. In addition, India has already established an Air Force station from where Dornier aircraft carry out surveillance flights and hoist Indian military helicopters. In addition, a 25-bed military hospital has also been set up in Male. The fate of the network project in Maldives is unclear, MoD sources said .
The mapping of areas around Maldives and the Exclusive Economic Zone has been conducted with the help of Indian scientists and Indian Navy surveillance aircraft and hydrographic ships.
An Indian Navy official said the Maldives Exclusive Economic Zone is the most vulnerable, and China is also trying to establish its presence in the islands.