A curious editorial in the Global Times said the Maldives’ request for the withdrawal of the helicopters and personnel was an embodiment of such a desire and sent an important message to all major powers in the Indo-Pacific region.
“New Delhi has long regarded the South Asian island nation as its backyard and sphere of influence, with a strong desire to tighten its grip on the capital city of Malé and exclude other countries’ influence,” said the Beijing-based tabloid.
“As an independent sovereign country, the island republic increasingly desires to rid itself of excessive Indian influence and maximize its interests by developing diplomatic ties with all major powers.”
The Global Times is an excitable and sometimes belligerent outlet that often reflects the communist party’s leadership, with its editorials about India’s approach to the Maldives veering from condescension to threats.
On Sunday Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi renewed calls to restore the independent functioning of democratic institutions before the presidential election, following a 45-day state of emergency and months of political turmoil.
But India’s remarks on a breakdown in democracy have been given short shrift by Malé.
“China has not attempted to interfere in others’ domestic affairs in the process of implementing the initiative, nor does it intend to seek a sphere of influence,” said the Global Times editorial.
“The Maldives can be an opportunity for cooperation between China and India, as long as India can drop its unnecessary wariness.”
The Maldives’ significance comes from its proximity to international sea lanes, through which the majority of the world’s oil and half of its container shipments pass.