[Answered] Discuss the role of smaller states like the Maldives in the India-China geopolitical rivalry. How have these states used the rivalry to their advantage in internal politics?

Introduction: Briefly describe context of the question

Body: Role of smaller states in geopolitical rivalry and how they use it to their advantage?

Conclusion: Way forward

Smaller nations, such as the Maldives, are important players in the greater geopolitical struggle between China and India, though their position is complex. These two Asian superpowers are now engaged in a strategic rivalry centred around the Indian Ocean region, which includes the Maldives.

Role in Geopolitical Rivalry

  • Strategic Location: Because of their location, smaller states—such as island republics like the Maldives—have greater strategic significance. Due to its strategic location along important sea lanes, the Maldives is attractive to China and India in terms of trade, energy security, and naval might. Through this region passes more than 97% of India’s total international trade by volume and 75% by value.
  • Economic Dependency: When it comes to investments, development initiatives, and financial assistance, these smaller governments frequently rely on China and India. Both countries provide economic help to these governments to gain influence, resulting in a complicated web of economic linkages.
  • Security Implications: The dynamics of security between China and India have an impact on the Maldives and other smaller states. To make sure their security issues are taken care of without offending anyone, they strike a careful balance.
  • Indian Diaspora: There is a sizeable population of people descended from India living in Maldives. There are numerous Indians employed in the Maldives’ education and medical care systems, as well as in the tourism and hospitality sectors.

Utilizing Rivalry for Internal Politics

  • Bargaining Power: Smaller governments use the China-India rivalry to their advantage in negotiations. By pitting one power against the other, they can get advantageous terms in business agreements, infrastructure development projects, and diplomatic ties.
  • Diversification of relationships: Diversifying diplomatic and economic relationships is a common goal for smaller powers. Through active engagement with both China and India, they ensure a wider base of support for their national objectives and avoid being dependent on a single state.
  • Infrastructure Development: Smaller states could leverage the competition to draw in infrastructure funding. By strategically allying with one or both of these countries, governments can gain from enhanced connectivity and economic development as India and China frequently fight to fund and construct important infrastructure projects.
  • Diplomatic Manipulation: Smaller nations use diplomacy to pressure China and India into providing assistance and concessions. They can obtain resources, technology, and diplomatic support without fully committing to one side by deftly managing ties.


The Maldives’ strategic location in the Indian Ocean makes it essential to India’s interests. However, since China’s growing dominance in the Indian Ocean region, the partnership has faced new difficulties. While taking into account the Maldives’ sensitivities, India must vigorously promote its ties with the country.

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