DTN News: India To Install Radars In Maldives*Source: DTN News / Defense Media
(NSI News Source Info) NEW DELHI, India - August 23, 2009: India will help the Republic of Maldives build a maritime surveillance system, among other defense-cooperative measures agreed to during the Aug. 20-22 visit of India Defence Minister A.K. Antony to the Indian Ocean island nation.
The system's radars will be linked to the Indian Navy and Coastal Guard headquarters, a senior Indian Navy official said.
India is also likely to give Maldives two Coast Guard helicopters in coming months, the Navy official said.
Indian Defence Ministry sources said Maldives is emerging as an important logistics and intelligence base for India.
Antony and his delegation met with Maldives President Mohammed Nasheed and Defence Minister Ameen Faisal, who told reporters Aug. 21 that the security concerns of both countries are intertwined.
Analysts said the move was part of India's efforts to counter growing Chinese influence in the region.
"If China is building a port in Hambantota, India outflanks the same by a strong presence in Male and so on. What could even be termed as a great game in the Indian Ocean will be seen in the years ahead," said defense analyst Rahul Bhonsle, a retired Army brigadier.
But Zach Mathews, a retired Indian Navy commodore, said India is more worried about countering Pakistan's influence on the island chain, which is 400 nautical miles from the Indian coast.
"Maldives is a Muslim country, and having an independent nation close to the Indian subcontinent and under control of forces inimical to India would be a disaster," Mathews said.
In 1988, India sent forces to Maldives at the request of President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom during a coup attempt. When the Indian troops arrived in Maldives by air, the terrorists and rebels escaped from Male but were overpowered by Indian Navy warships.
Maldives has an India-First policy, says Vijay Sakhuja, a director at the Indian Council of World Affairs here.
"Maldives has emphatically denied that there are Chinese naval facilities on any of its island territories and assured [us] that it has no plans [to allow any] in the future. Instead, it seeks an exclusive security arrangement with India and does not wish to approach regional and extraregional powers for such agreements," said Sakhuja.
Analysts said Maldives needs help securing its littorals from piracy, terrorism, contraband trade, drug smuggling and human smuggling by local and foreign actors.
"There is a need not just for Indian interests, but also [for] overall global interests, given the large quantum of trade passing through this region, which is likely to grow exponentially once the present financial crisis recedes. Unless these sea lanes are secured, there would be many more Somalia-like situations happening in the region," said Bhonsle. "I would not view it as an Indian security net but a global trade security net for which other South Asian countries of Sri Lanka and Maldives and those on the East African coast would remain critical. This global trade safety net through the Indian Ocean will be led by India, given the strategic location and large naval presence."
The Indian delegation also included Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar, DG Armed Forces Medical Services Lt. Gen. N.K. Parmar, DG Coast Guard Vice Adm. Anil Chopra and Deputy Chief of Navy Staff Vice Adm. D.K. Joshi, according to an Indian Defence Ministry press release.