Sun. Apr 21st, 2024

India’s naval forces are poised to reinforce their presence on islands deemed “strategically important” near the Maldives, with the inauguration of a new base slated just ahead of Male’s initiative to repatriate Indian forces.

Tensions have escalated between India and the Maldives since President Mohamed Muizzu, perceived as pro-China, assumed power following last year’s elections, pledging to oust Indian military personnel.

Expressing apprehension over China’s expanding influence in the archipelago, India aims to extend its operational reach with the establishment of the new base, as articulated in a statement released by the navy late Saturday. President Muizzu’s directive to India, urging the withdrawal of 89 security personnel responsible for operating reconnaissance aircraft, signifies a significant shift in the regional dynamics. The initial batch of personnel is slated to depart by March 10, with the complete withdrawal expected within two months.

Scheduled for inauguration on March 6, the new base situated on India’s Lakshadweep islands will transform an existing modest detachment into an autonomous naval entity, as outlined by the navy’s official communiqué. Positioned on the island of Minicoy, the base will significantly enhance India’s proximity to the Maldives, with the Lakshadweep islands lying approximately 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of the Maldives.

While India already maintains a naval base on the Lakshadweep island of Kavaratti, the strategic significance of the new installation cannot be understated, as it brings India approximately 258 kilometers (160 miles) closer to the Maldives. Emphasizing the critical role of Minicoy in safeguarding key sea routes, the navy underscored the base’s intended focus on enhancing anti-piracy and anti-narcotic operations.

The establishment of the new base reflects India’s concerted effort to bolster security infrastructure on islands deemed strategically pivotal, as articulated by the navy’s statement. With its inauguration, India aims to strengthen its operational surveillance capabilities in the region, reaffirming its commitment to safeguarding vital maritime interests amid evolving geopolitical dynamics.

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