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Maldives tryst with Islamist militancy and Chinese shadow

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So the Abdulla Yameen- speak signals a change in Male's thinking that it is futile to aggravate ties with India, which has been a "time-tested friend".

Of course, there is another reality check. And Male cannot afford to ignore it either. The island nation is heavily dependent on India for all its basic needs -- drinking water including. Last year, India rushed thousands of gallons of drinking water within 24 hours of a SOS after a fire forced the closure of its water purifying plant.

From what one hears, President Yameen's latest moves designed to let foreign ownership of Maldivian islands has not gone down well with New Delhi. His government has pushed through a constitutional amendment for the purpose.

We don't need a Sherlock Homes to tell that the move is tailor made for China, which has been trying to set up a base in the Indian Ocean. But Vice-President Ahmed Adeeb has gone to the town to allay such concerns though.

"Our sovereignty is not on offer. We don't want to give any of our neighbours, including India, any cause for concern. We don't want to be in a position when we become a threat to our neighbours," he said the other day in Male.

Recent months have seen India not hiding its annoyance with Maldives. For instance, at the last minute in March, Prime Minister Narendra Modi cancelled his visit to the island neighbour but went ahead with his tour of Sri Lanka. And in June, he extended Ramzan greetings to leaders of all Muslim countries in the SAARC region, but ignored President Abdulla Yameen.

So, New Delhi may be pleased by Adeeb clarification, more so since it has been resisting pressures to play honest broker in the Abdulla Yameen -- Nishad feud.

India-Maldives relations were put to test in February 2013, when former President Mohammad Nasheed, fearing arrest, walked into the Indian embassy in Male to take refuge. He walked out only after an agreement brokered by India between Nasheed's Maldives Democratic Party and the Yameen Government. However, Nasheed was arrested in February 2015 under an anti-terror law for treason and sentenced to a 13-year jail term.

Ever since Nasheed's arrest, there has been immense pressure on India to intervene and broker his release. However, India has stuck to its policy of non-interference in the internal politics of Maldives.

This may have brought smile to President Yameen; there is no gainsaying the fact that he is now spurred by Sept 28 explosion to finally act tough on terrorism and jihadi forces. Coordination with India, which is concerned with terrorism will be a natural corollary.

From what I hear the Yameen government is actively working to schedule Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Male. This would be positive step in rekindling the relations between the two countries and make them close ranks in the fight against Islamist terrorists.

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A blogger since July 2008 James Duglous Crickton is a London based consultant working with a consultancy firm focusing on Asia, particularly South Asia and East Asia. Political Research is his functional focus area. While his interests are (more...)
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