In a big win of securing India's maritime concerns in the Indian ocean, the Maldives-China agreement to build an observatory in the Indian Ocean is most likely to be scrapped following the exit of President Abdulla Yameen's pro-China regime.
Titled "Protocol on Establishment of Joint Ocean Observation Station", the 2017 agreement that allows China to build an observatory in the Makunudhoo region and threatens India's strategic national security interests, is "not on the table", sources told TOI.
Former Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar had raised India's concerns with then Maldivian envoy Ahmed Mohamed. The envoy officials had dismissed the concerns and stated that China planned to build an observatory for meteorological purposes, not military.
The latest development takes place after Prime Minister Narendra Modi was awarded the highest state honour to foreign dignitaries by President Mohamed Solih on June 9.
In the recent visit, PM Modi while referring to Male's external debts to China had said that India's role in the partnership is meant to 'empower' and not 'weaken countries by increasing dependency" on the country.
It was reported then that the Maldives was planning to withdraw itself from the free trade pact with China. It was also stated that India had offered a $1.4 billion financial aid to the Maldives, reported Reuters.
India's role in the Indian Ocean had been, according to analysts, severely criticised as "self-inflicted strategic myopia" in the past. It was only after PM Modi visited the Seychelles first time in 34 years and Sri Lanka in 28 years in 2015 that India found itself addressing its presence in the strategic Indian ocean.
However, in the Indian Ocean region tour, PM Modi had not visited the Maldives which was then under the presidency of Abdulla Yameen.
Analysts had inferred that India was a bit too late in its expansion as China had made its presence well known in the region long back. By 2018, China's influence in Sri Lanka, Maldives and Bangladesh had spread significantly.
The situation between India and Maldives had deteriorated to such an extent that the government under Yameen asked India to remove its gifted helicopters and crew from the country and even "banned" Indian workers from entering the country.
The biggest concern for India in terms of its maritime security has been the increasing maritime expansion of China in the region since the People's Liberation Army Navy entered the Indian Ocean and China announced its fully functional naval base in Djibouti in 2017.