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Maldives on ‘path of confrontation’ with India

India’s prime minister has yet to visit the Maldives, despite taking office in 2014.

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The Maldives is moving on a path of confrontation with India, a think-tank said, warning of the potential for “enormous harm” to the Maldivian public and region.

Ties between the two South Asian neighbours have been nosediving for months over a series of snubs and spats, but mostly over the Maldives’ closeness to China.

A strongly worded report published Wednesday by the Vivekenanda International Foundation, which can be said to reflect the thinking of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, remarked that the Maldives had changed its foreign policy and priorities.

“It has steadily moved towards the Chinese umbrella of alliances and sees a bright future in that camp. While it is free to align with whichever country it deems fit, Malé must not forget about its dependencies on India.

“A hostile or even indifferent Indian posture can bring enormous harm to the Maldivian public and the region.

“Analysts believe that the Yameen government is moving on a path of confrontation with India, apparently in pursuit of bigger ambitions through Chinese investments without realising the overall strategic cost.”

The neighbours have done little to hide how underwhelmed they are with each other.

Most recently India’s Twitter-savvy foreign minister Sushma Swaraj explained why she was ignoring invitations to the Maldives, while a foreign ministry spokesman offered a muted response to news that a Maldivian ruling party lawmaker had been refused entry to the country.

An emboldened Maldives meanwhile has scolded India for comments on a state of emergency, given it a deadline to remove two ‘gifted’ helicopters and reportedly summoned its ambassador about the lawmaker being denied entry.

Defence title Jane’s 360 reported Wednesday that the Maldives had declined to renew the visas of the Indian pilots and the dozen or so technicians responsible for the helicopters’ maintenance.

Last year Malé suspended island councillors after they met the Indian ambassador and the president pleaded for restraint towards India after a hostile editorial appeared on a pro-government website.

Chinese state media has pounced on the acrimony and veered between goading India and threatening it.

The think-tank said President Abdulla Yameen’s government had indicated a steady inclination towards adversaries of India, without specifically naming China as an enemy.

“It must be noted here that a large volume of India’s trade passes through the Indian Ocean and substantial international traffic through the routes right at the cusp of Maldivian lands.

“Chinese control over Maldives is a concern for the larger international community,” it said.

The Maldives is the only South Asian country that Modi has yet to visit since taking office in 2014.

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