Was Trump-Modi telecon over Maldives crisis a message to China?
Maldives has arguably now turned into an international theatre for flexing geostrategic muscles. The island nation is in a political mess after President Abdulla Yameen refused to implement the Supreme Court order last week directing the government to release opposition leaders including former president Mohamed Nasheed, who were earlier convicted on various charges including terrorism.
While the opposition leaders of Maldives sought military intervention by India to rescue the archipelago from present chaos, President Yameen relies heavily on China’s support to run his government. China has been more vocal on the Maldives crisis issuing daily statements on the developments in that country.
Now, US President Donald Trump has thrown his hat in the ring holding a telephonic conversation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is said to be monitoring the Maldives situation closely and also personally, the Maldives crisis among others.
The Modi government is believed to have taken a decision not to send troops to Maldives and prefer a negotiated settlement of the political crisis in the country, whose northernmost island Thuraakunu is merely 130 km from Minicoy, the southernmost island of Lakshadweep.
The international community should play a constructive role on the basis of respecting the Maldives sovereignty instead of taking measures that could complicate the current situation.
– Geng Shuang, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson
THERE IS ALWAYS A CHINESE ANGLE
China warned India against sending troops after former Maldivian president Nasheed made the fervent request. Responding to a query on Wednesday in Beijing about Nasheed’s call to India, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said, “The international community should play a constructive role on the basis of respecting the Maldives sovereignty instead of taking measures that could complicate the current situation.”
A day later, China rejected the United Nations’ offer to mediate and resolved the crisis. However, China made it clear that it was involved in deliberations with the “relevant parties” of Maldives. “China has always closely followed the development of the situation in the Maldives,” Geng Shuang said.
Interestingly, China also maintains that Maldives current crisis is an internal matter of the country where Beijing has a role but others don’t. Geng Shuang said, “China thinks that the current situation and disputes in Maldives belongs to its internal affairs. It should be properly resolved through dialogue and consultation by the relevant parties. The international community should respect Maldives’ sovereignty and territorial integrity and play a constructive role for the dialogue between the relevant parties.”
China has invested huge in Maldives. It is building a “friendship bridge” to connect Maldivian capital Male with Hulhumale island that is uninhabited and where President Yameen is said to be planning to relocate 70 per cent of the country’s population. China is building roads, housing colonies and has emerged as the biggest trading partner of Maldives pushing India to second position.
In President Yameen, China has a malleable ally. While Nasheed is understood to be pro-India, Yameen is pro-China and pro-Pakistan. Under Nasheed, Maldives has become an important component of China’s Belt and Road Initiative in the Indian Ocean region.
The international community should respect Maldives’ sovereignty and territorial integrity.
– Geng Shuang
WHY DONALD TRUMP IS BOTHERED?
Rising China is a challenge to the US’ hegemony in the world. Donald Trump has renewed focus on the US interests within and outside with his America First policy. China’s global ambitions and Donald Trump’s America First policy are contrasting in nature. Its ripple effect was seen just a few days ago.
Earlier this week China looked rattled over the US ramping up trade investigations after official data showed its surplus with America reducing in January. It had reached record levels last year. Trump administration’s decision has left China worried.
However, China itself has announced investigation into imports of a US agricultural product after President Donald Trump’s administration launched a spate of new trade tariffs and probes into Chinese goods.
On the other hand, Trump is worried over Chinese expansion in the Indian Ocean and West Asia regions in the backdrop of acquisition of ports in Pakistan, Djibouti, Sri Lanka and virtually gaining control of Maldives through politico-economic equation with President Yameen.
GEOSTRATEGIC CONFLICTS IN INDIAN OCEAN
China has both commercial and military interests in Pakistani at Gwadar port, in Djibouti at Cocos Keeling, Bangladesh and Myanmar while it also looking to strengthen its strategic assets in Sri Lanka and Maldives.
The United States, too, has retained its strong naval presence in the Indian Ocean since World War II as it is a busy business route connecting the largest populations over West, South, South East Asia and Africa.
The US has military bases at Diego Garcia – little south of Maldives – in the British Indian Ocean Territory and at various places in the Persian Gulf. The US bases are also located at Djibouti, in the Horn of Africa and in Ethiopia in East Africa. The US maintains sizeable military personnel on each of these bases.
The US has its military bases in Indian Ocean including at Diego Garcia located south of Maldives. (Photo: Future Direction Institution)
The US is strategically equipped to hoist quick military reaction to any challenge to its geostrategic interests in the region. China’s expansion in the same latitudes poses serious challenge to the US’ grip on the region.
TRUMP, MODI’S COMMON RIVAL
Donald Trump sees India under PM Modi as a potential partner to counter China. The Modi government, too, sees this as an opportunity to play bigger role in the geostrategic game. India – along with Japan, to some extent – is the only big economic and military powerhouse that has traditionally stayed away from geostrategic race.
But China’s regional and global ambitions combined with its belligerent expansionist policies in the post-cold war, post-non-aligned world presents a different set of challenges to India. China’s growing global prowess takes a different dimensions altogether in the backdrop of the boundary disputes that India shares with its northern neighbour.
So, soon after President Yameen sent special envoys to “friends” in Beijing, Islamabad and Riyadh, Donald Trump and Narendra Modi might just have sent out a message through their telephonic conversation to President Xi Jinping that Maldives was not yet an extended theatre command of China.
Source:- India today