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Maldives and Mauritius Hold Importance for India in its Maritime Diplomacy

Diplomacy and Strategic engagements in Asian region suddenly seem to be getting aggressive once again giving a hint of how things might turn up in the future in this part of world which can potentially build a new world order. suddenly a lot seems to be happening at one go.

With two-country visit of Indian foreign minister S. Jaishankar in a single lap to Maldives and Mauritius India minces no word how it is keen on consolidating its strategic presence in Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

Choosing Maldives and Mauritius in a single lap of his foreign visit by Indian foreign minister is not only symbolic but also strategic aiming to have a collective goal of securing and strengthening its ties through maritime diplomacy on one hand and also indicating how India is putting smaller nations in an important spot of its security strategies in IOR on the other side.

Indian bringing in smaller nations to tap Indian Ocean Region

India signing a Defence line of Credit (LoC) Agreement worth $50 million on with Maldives is its reiteration of the commitment to the Maldives security to boost the maritime capabilities of the strategic island nation.

During his two-day visit to Maldives Foreign Minister of India tweeted, “Useful exchange on our defence cooperation. India will always be a reliable security partner for the Maldives”, after India signed the deal.

By further extending $100 million line of credit to Mauritius during Jaishankar’s second lap of two-nation visit for procurement of defence equipment seems to be an acknowledgement by India how maritime neighbours occupy special place in India’s foreign policy.

Maldives and Mauritius visit in a single lap by Indian foreign minister is also important in the wake of border tussle of India with China on Ladakh border for past many months. Timing of the visit at the time when both China and India are moving ahead with their de-escalation after completing their process of disengagement holds significance.

This can be viewed as India’s effort to build in its hold in the IOR region in order to counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative and to reconnect with Maldives in archipelago nation’s changed political establishment to exploit not only the favourable regime for its benefits besides also pushing through PM Modi’s Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR) initiative.

Mauritius, occupies a special place in the PM’s vision of SAGAR, which aims at promoting co-operations among the state actors and create an environment of peace and stability. It represents a nexus of maritime security.

The Indian ocean Rim Association (IOAR) is the predominant organisation that brings together the Indian Ocean states to a common platform to promote maritime security.

New Delhi is vigilant of China’s growing penetration in the IOR which postulates a security threat for India.

Strategic Importance of Indian Ocean for India

The Indian Ocean is an important aspect of greater world connectivity. The changing metrics of power in the Indian Ocean Region has drawn major attention on the international stage.

IOR is the third largest water body of the world that has vital sea lanes of communication crisscrossing it which feed Asia’s largest economies.

India’s strategic location at the head of the Indian Ocean gives it a great strategic importance and helps in maintaining contact with the rest of the world. It helps India to keep close contact with West Asia, Europe, West Africa from the western coast and Southeast and East Asia from eastern coast.

Strategic importance of Maldives and Mauritius for India

The Indian Ocean is a key highway for global trade and energy flows. The Maldives is geographically positioned like a ‘toll gate’ between the western Indian Ocean chokepoints of the Gulf of Aden and the Strait of Hormuz on the one hand, and the eastern Indian Ocean chokepoint of the Strait of Malacca on the other.

Thus, while the International Shipping Lanes (ISLs) in the vicinity of the Maldives have broad strategic significance for global maritime trade, they are of particular importance to India.  Fifty per cent of India’s external trade and eighty per cent of its energy imports transit these ISLs. 

Mauritius on the other hand, is part of India’s security grid including Coastal Surveillance Radar (CSR) station. If New Delhi takes an integrated view of its security cooperation in the southwestern Indian Ocean, Mauritius is the natural connecting part. Mauritius is also important for India as a largest trading partner since 2007.

Therefore India, playing a soft diplomacy in IOR is not only aimed at safeguarding its commitment for the smaller nations in its trade and security relations but is for securing its diplomatic and strategic position in IOR while also countering China’s aggressive connectivity through trade and belt and road initiative in smaller countries of Asia.

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