(Purpose of this post just to aware the members about the strategic importance of this tiny Island and its history. Because some fellow member post the news without thorough knowledge of conflict between India vs China,Pakistan,which end up bitterly.Source of information is Indian news agencies)
The location of the Republic of Maldives astride the major sealanes in the Indian Ocean is of strategic relevance to India. -- Ministry of Defence's annual report, 2000.
27 July 2001: China has engineered a manner of a coup by coaxing Maldives' Abdul Gayoom government to let it establish a base in Marao. Marao is one of the largest of the 1192 coral islands grouped into atolls that comprise Maldives and lies 40 km south of Male, the capital.
Coral islands make fine submarine pens. The Peoples' Liberation Army Navy or PLAN proposes to deploy nuclear submarines fitted with sea-launched Dong Feng-44 missiles and ballistic missiles (SLBMs) in Marao.
Scientists warn that global warming is pushing up ocean and sea levels. They fear that most of Maldives will be submerged by year 2040. Marao may be one of the few large islands that may survive. "And even if it goes under water," said a naval official, "it will be ideal for submarines."
The base deal was finalised after two years of negotiations when Chinese prime minister Zhu Rongji visited Male on 17 May 2001 on his four-nation South Asian tour. It marks a high point in China's ambitious - and audacious - plan to encircle India and choke its emergent blue-water navy in the Indian Ocean itself.
And it indicates schisms with Maldives, a friendly country saved from a coup by Indian special forces in November 1988.
Gayoom & India
Maldives president Gayoom visited India in August 2000 and held consultations with prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee on issues of mutual interest including "cross-border terrorism" and regional security. Maldives favours "direct talks" between India and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir issue. Maldives is a Sunni Muslim country that gained independence from Britain and has fair relations with Pakistan.
After the talks in New Delhi, Gayoom met reporters and disclosed that Maldives was "not considering any proposal to set up a permanent Indian naval base" in that country. He added that there was no such proposal from the Indian side, and that the issue did not figure in the talks. He concluded with a tantalising half-observation that Maldives had "excellent levels of cooperation in defence" with India.
That statement hid some things. It hid, for example, the fact that both India and China were actively wooing Maldives or, at any rate, spoiling it for each other.
Five months before Gayoom's visit, Indian naval chief Sushil Kumar had been to Male. In November 2000, Maldives' junior minister for defence and national security, Major General Abdul Sattar Anbaree, came to India. From 9-12 January 2001, (then) defence minister George Fernandes toured Maldives and held extensive discussions with Major-General Anbaree.
"Naval chief Sushil Kumar and Fernandes' visits got the Chinese suspicious," said a naval official. The Chinese had themselves taken off five times to Maldives before the Rongji visit "under the pretext of boosting bilateral trade and Chinese assistance for infrastructural development and boosting tourism". But Fernandes' visit was the turning point for them, not least because Fernandes, a Lohia-ite, lead the anti-Chinese lobby in the Indian government and had once labeled China India's "no 1 threat".
In February 2001, a small delegation from Pakistan visited Maldives to boost cultural ties. "The Pakistanis put pressure on Male to facilitate Chinese plans for a naval base," said an official. "China used Pakistan to play the Islamic card with Maldives."
China is close to striking a formal deal with Maldives for Marao. It will use Marao islands for 25 years on lease and pay back Maldives in foreign currency and create jobs for the locals dependent entirely on tourism and fishing.
The Marao base's principal aim would be to contain the Indian navy. "China," said a naval official, "is worried that the Indian Navy is getting more natural islets in the Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal to establish bases that can impose a sea denial on China in case of a conflict in the South China Sea and harm Chinese interests in the Indian Ocean region."
But the Marao base is not expected to be operational until 2010. In the interim, according to a November 2000 white paper on China's national defence, PLAN and PLA's naval air force could deploy a minimum of two aircraft carrier battle groups and five submarine groups in the Indian Ocean. Oilers, AWACS and refueling aircraft will support these groups.
But once Marao comes up, China's power projection in the Indian Ocean will stabilise. It will also set China on the course followed in the earlier superpower, Cold War rivalry between the US and the Soviet Union. Both states built a series of naval bases throughout the world for emergency counter-offensive measures. China is embarked on doing the same.
More bases signify a bigger navy. This is also on the cards. According to the November 2000 white paper, China is moving away from Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai's "People's War" doctrine biased toward land-based wars and land-based forces to a greater thrust on sea-based forces. The 2001-2002 defence budget gave PLAN a higher share of 35 per cent but cut the army allocation to 29 per cent.
These developments have worried the US that has proposed to its ASEAN allies and friendly countries to create a joint command to contain China and prevent its expansion in the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean. The US is keen for India to hasten construction of the Far Eastern Naval Command in the Andaman Islands, and this was repeated by the chairman of the US joint chiefs, General Henry H. Shelton, who visited India recently.
Specific to the Marao base, the US sent navy chief Dennis Blair to Maldives a month after Rongji's visit to take stock of China's military diplomacy. While the US base in Diego Garcia can launch surprise offensives, the US wants to restrict Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean because of its strategic value.
According to one survey, some $260 billion worth of oil and gas will be shipped through the Indian Ocean by year 2004. The oil route stretching from the Strait of Malacca to the Strait of Hormuz will be at the mercy of any power that dominates the sealanes. A Chinese base in Marao islands puts it in a direct position to influence oil commerce. It is a prospect that daunts India, scares Southeast Asia, and alarms the US.
On Wednesday, 25 July 2001, US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld said that the US needed to keep a strong military presence in Asia to deter any future threats from China. "I've always felt," he said, "that weakness is provocative, that it kind of invites people to do things that they otherwise wouldn't think about doing." He disclosed that the Pentagon was evolving a new strategy for Asia that would focus on military operations.
But China is pressing ahead with its military plans with equal vigour - and stealth. It is most noticeable in the Marao affair. Indian officials say that China engaged two American and three European companies in the past two years to conduct aerial and deep-sea surveys to assess Maldives' suitability for a base. But the agreement with the companies was for monitoring the weather and magnetic response of the seabed in and around Male.
And yet, such environment-protection surveys may be more than a cover for a base. Environmental protection could also carry a political thrust. Maldives told the UN in 1987 that a 6.6 feet rise in sea level could submerge all of the country. Sea level is rising because of global warming. Global warming is a matter of paranoia for Maldives.
Maldives has criticised the decision of US president George Bush to reject the Kyoto pact on global warming. China calls the US decision "irresponsible", though it is one of the largest emitters of the global-warming carbon dioxide gas, and Zhu Rongji said in Male that China would work with Maldives on environmental issues.
"It will," said an official, "take China next to nothing to convert an honourable campaign against global warming into an anti-American campaign in Maldives."
Chinese naval base in Maldives
23 July 2001: China has planned to establish a naval base in Marao Islands near Maldives in the Indian Ocean by 2010 and deploy nuclear-powered submarines fitted with submarine-launched Dong Feng-44 missiles and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), Indian officials disclosed.
'The base,' officials said, 'is designed to encircle India and neutralise its offensive power projection in the Indian Ocean.'
China has a base in Myanmar's Coco Islands since 1993 plus listening posts along the Bay of Bengal to monitor Indian naval movement.
China has been working on the Marao Islands base for two years and it materialised in May 2001 when Chinese premier Zhou Rongji visited Maldives as part of his south Asian tour.
'Beijing is establishing the base under the cover of creating an observatory in Male that will monitor weather conditions throughout the year to determine climate changes,' officials said. 'China is publicly claiming that it is affected by climate changes severely.'
China is close to signing a 25-year lease agreement with Maldives for use of Marao Islands and will pay back in foreign currency and create jobs for the locals who are dependent on tourism and fishery.
China Base Strategy in Maldives against India with help from Pakistan hivehi Observer :: Peoples Press ::
Maldives: Tiny islands, big intrigue
By Sudha Ramachandran
BANGALORE - Concerned about China's growing interest in the Indian Ocean, a body of water and region that New Delhi considers to be its own sphere of influence, India is strengthening its already close military cooperation with Maldives, a nation of 1,192 tiny, low-lying coral islands strategically located about 300 miles off subcontinent's southeast coast.
India is transferring to Maldives INS Tillanchang, a 260-ton fast-attack craft commissioned in 2001, which has a range of 3,600
kilometers and is designed for quick and covert operations against smugglers, gun-runners and terrorists. India will also provide Maldives with funds for training, material and technical assistance for three years after the transfer of the vessel.
The ship will be formally transferred to Maldives in mid-April when Indian Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee visits the Maldivian capital, Male. Besides, an Indian navy survey ship, INS Darshak, will conduct a hydrographic survey in the waters around Maldives.
Close cooperation between the two countries is not new. In 1988, in response to the request of the Maldivian government, India rushed paratroopers and naval forces to crush a coup attempt. India's relationship with Maldives has deepened in the post-coup period. It has provided Maldives with armored cars and other military equipment and has trained Maldivian paratroopers in counter-insurgency operations. Indian navy vessels patrol along the archipelago's many coastlines and watch over its sea lanes.
In addition to strengthening Maldives' internal security, there exists close cooperation in developing the archipelago's health, civil aviation, telecommunications and other civilian sectors. Indian and Maldivian coast guards have also participated in joint dosti (friendship) exercises. Moreover, the Indian navy was at the forefront of massive relief operations after the 2004 tsunami.
Not everyone in Maldives is not happy with the growing military relationship, as some see this as further consolidating President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom's grip on power. Maldives, a seemingly serene tourist paradise, has in recent years been rocked by street demonstrations opposing Gayoom's autocratic rule. There is concern that Gayoom will use the military assistance he gets from India against his domestic political opponents, whom he tends to label indiscriminately as "Islamist terrorists".
So there are plenty of good reasons for New Delhi to keep a close watch over its neighbor. Maldives shares ties of religion with Pakistan (both countries are Sunni Muslim). India would not want that bond to blossom into a stronger political-defense relationship or have other interests inimical to India gain influence in territory so close to its coastline.
That's why reports of growing ties with China are of great concern to New Delhi. The visit of then Chinese premier Zhu Rongji to Male in 2001 immediately prompted rumors that the Chinese were seeking a base on one of the atolls. According to these reports, the Chinese managed to persuade the Maldivian government to grant them a base on Marao, one of the largest islands of the archipelago, and that Pakistan had played an important role in pushing the deal through. The base was to become operational in 2010.
The deal appeared to have run into trouble in 2002, but reports of renewed maritime cooperation on the part of China and Maldives surfaced again in 2004. Both the Maldivian and Chinese governments denied the reports and have since maintained that the deepsea surveys that were carried out were for environmental protection, not for military purposes.
China might deny it has plans for a base in Maldives, but such plans fit a long-standing pattern. To the west of India lies China's longtime "all-weather friend" Pakistan. China's cooperation on missiles and nuclear weapons is well known and its funding of Pakistan's Gwadar port will enable the Chinese navy to sit at the mouth of the strategic Strait of Hormuz, through which passes much of the world's petroleum supply, as well as provide it access to the Arabian Sea.
To India's east, China has substantial influence over the military junta in Myanmar. It is helping modernize several bases along the Andaman Sea in Hianggyi, Akyab, Kyun and Mergui to support Chinese submarine operations. Myanmar is said to have leased a base to the Chinese in the Coco Islands, which are just a few nautical miles from India's Andaman and Nicobar Islands. India believes that Beijing's surveillance facilities there facilitate its monitoring of India's missile-testing activity in the eastern state of Orissa. China also has extensive military relations with Bangladesh. Dhaka is said to have offered the Chinese access to Chittagong port.
Given China's known interest in having bases around the Indian Ocean littoral, a Chinese base in Maldives would not be surprising. But while defense experts in India see the Chinese base in Maldives as motivated by Beijing's determination to contain and encircle India, it is possible that Beijing has another motivation for stringing bases like pearls from the Strait of Hormuz to Southeast Asia, namely securing energy supplies to feed its growing economy.
This strategy is described in a report titled "Energy Futures in Asia" produced by Booz Allen Hamilton for the Pentagon. The report draws attention to the "pearls" in this string such as the Chinese naval presence at Gwadar in Pakistan, at Chittagong in Bangladesh, in Myanmar, Cambodia and Thailand, and in the South China Sea. The base in Marao, Maldives, could be part of this strategy of securing the sea lanes through which pass oil tankers from the Middle East heading for China.
Of course, India has its own designs in the Indian Ocean. Analysts view India's security perimeter - its "rightful domain" - as extending from the Strait of Hormuz to the Strait of Malacca, from Africa's east coast to the western shores of Australia. It has been reaching out to Indian Ocean littorals from Africa and Asia through joint naval exercises with some countries and by patrolling sea lanes. Recent reports suggest that India is planning to set up a high-tech monitoring station in northern Madagascar. The package to Maldives is part of this larger Indian Ocean strategy.
India's military package might prompt some smiles in the Gayoom government. But whether it will keep Gayoom from courting the Chinese remains to be seen. India just might find itself having to do more than offering a speed boat to keep the Chinese away from its southern doorstep.
Sudha Ramachandran is an independent journalist/researcher
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