India and the US are committed to a free and open Indo-Pacific that promotes the security and prosperity of all nations in the region. The increased presence of China in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) is a cause of concern. In this context, the significance of this new agreement needs to be understood.
- Provisions of the agreement
- Importance of the agreement
- Why is India supporting it?
Provisions of the agreement:
- The United States and the Indian Ocean island of the Maldives have concluded a defense agreement.
- The “Framework for U.S. Department of Defense-Maldives Ministry of Defence and Security Relationship” signifies an “intent to deepen engagement and cooperation in support of maintaining peace and security in the Indian Ocean”.
- It marks an important step forward in the defense partnership.
- Framework agreement involves basic cooperation between the U.S. and Maldivian navies, and mandates that the two sides schedule their first Defence and Security Dialogue mechanism talks.
Importance of the agreement:
- Both India and the U.S. have long watched the Maldives being drawn towards China with growing alarm recently due to China’s BRI initiative.
- It is significant that the Maldives has taken a strategic position, and signed this agreement with the U.S. and not with China.
- It is reiterated that India’s role as a “net security provider” in the Indian Ocean remains intact and is actually “complementary” to India’s plans for the Indo-Pacific.
- Under the present government of President Ibrahim Solih, ties between New Delhi and Male have been extremely close.
- There is a confidence that the pact with the U.S. would in no way harm India’s position in the islands.
- In 2019, the Maldives government had scrapped an agreement with China that had been signed by the previous government, to develop a “Joint Ocean Observation Station” on its western-most island of Makunudhoo.
- Now this move gives a boost to India’s idea of networked Indo-Pacific architecture.
Why is India supporting it?
- With the election of Ibrahim Mohamed Solih as president in September 2018, India-Maldives relations have grown considerably warmer, as the Maldives has reiterated its “India First policy” both in word and action.
- Narendra Modi’s first visit after his 2nd time becoming PM was to the Maldives, where he inaugurated a coastal surveillance radar system designed to enhance India’s maritime domain awareness.
- India has long expressed discomfort with the idea of extra-regional powers meddling in its backyard.
- But this time, the US’ decision to deepen military ties with the Maldives was taken in consultation with India.
- New Delhi has considerably warmed up to partnering with others in the Indian Ocean, including powers like France.
- India’s stance is a result of China’s push into the Indian Ocean.
- How the defence agreement between the Maldives and US is an initial step in countering the presence of China in the IOR?
Approach to the answer:
- Explain the provisions of the agreement
- Importance of the agreement (keep China factor in mind)
- Write the implications for India