India to help defend Maldives

Plan to offer radar systems and naval patrols amid claims of power struggle with China.

    India is expected to offer naval and coast guard patrols off the Maldives [File: EPA]

    There are also reports that a naval base could be built at Addu Atoll in the south of the archipelago.

    Big investment

    But Commodore Uday Bhaskar, a defence analyst and the director of the National Maritime Foundation in New Delhi, said that he did not believe that India planned to commit itslef to a costly undertaking like a permanent base on the Maldives.

    "India as the regional naval power would like to extend its presence as far as the Indian Ocean is concerned"

    Commodore Uday Bhaskar, defence analyst

    "A naval base is a very big investment and my understanding is that India neither has those resources nor the intent," he told Al Jazeera.

    "There are some assets that were created during World War Two and after the end of the war both the United Kingdom and, for some time, the United States had used some of these assets.

    "But in 2009, my reckoning as a naval analyst is that it is unlikely that India would get into the business of opening a naval base."

    The two countries share ethnic, linguistic, cultural, religious and commercial links and enjoy close relations. 

    Chinese competition

    However, some analysts have suggested that India's offer of assistance should be seen in terms of the competition between New Delhi and Beijing for economic and military influence in central and south Asia.

    "India as the regional naval power would like to extend its presence as far as the Indian Ocean is concerned," Bhaskar said.

    "The Chinese have made significant investments in east Africa, in Tanzania and Kenya, they have major ports they have invested in in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, they have commitments in Myanmar.

    "China is behaving like any major power, you have a certain economic profile you will try to extend your maritime reach."

    China is currently developing a deep water harbour for its expanding fleet of nuclear submarines in Gwadar, Pakistan, and is developing ports in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. It is also building two naval bases in Myanmar.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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