[Answered] Recent geopolitical happenings in the case of Maldives point to China’s growing influence in India’s neighbourhood. Explain how this is a threat to India’s aspirations as a strong regional power. What should India’s foreign policy look like in this regard?

Introduction: Give brief context to the question

Body: What are the threats posed by China; ‘s influence and response from India to mitigate these threats?

Conclusion: Way forward

India’s foreign policy is facing a significant challenge in its relations with the Maldives, highlighted by the recent presidential elections in which Dr. Mohamed Muizzu emerged victorious over Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. The election was perceived as a contest between India First and India Out campaigns, and Muizzu’s win is viewed as a triumph for the India Out faction.

Threat to India’s aspirations because of China’s growing influence in the region

  • Growing Chinese Influence: China has enhanced its influence in Maldives. Maldives is an essential ‘pearl’ in China’s ‘String of Pearls’ initiative in South Asia. With the return of the pro-Chinese government in Maldives, India’s diplomatic space will reduce in the region.
  • Economic Dependency: India may find itself in a situation where neighbouring countries become economically dependent on China due to China’s investments in infrastructure projects and economic aid. The political clout that can result from this economic power could potentially damage India’s standing in the region.
  • Security Concerns: India may have security concerns due to China’s military presence or strategic alliances in the area. It may challenge India’s security interests and alter the balance of power.
  • Effect on Security in the Indian Ocean: India considers the Indian Ocean to be strategically significant, and China’s influence and presence in the area may pose a threat to India’s interests in maritime security.

Response to India’s foreign policy

  • Increase in Development Assistance: India ought to augment its development assistance to the Maldives, focusing on projects with a substantial impact on the general population. This strategic approach will not only foster goodwill among the Maldivian people but also counter concerns that have fueled the ‘India Out’ campaigns.
  • Timely Completion of Infrastructure Projects: Ensuring the timely completion of infrastructure projects, such as the Greater Male Connectivity Project (GMCP), is imperative. This will provide a credible and attractive alternative to Chinese initiatives, reinforcing India’s commitment to delivering tangible and beneficial outcomes for the Maldives.
  • Prioritize Youth Employment: India’s High Impact Community Development Projects (HICPs) in the Maldives should incorporate initiatives focused on enhancing youth employability and fostering entrepreneurship. This strategic emphasis aims to mitigate the risks of radicalization and extremism originating within the region.
  • Cooperation with the new government: India needs to actively connect with the newly elected Maldivian government, addressing their concerns. Emphasizing that ongoing projects like the Hanimadhoo redevelopment aim to boost tourism by enhancing runway and terminal capacities is crucial, as tourism is vital to the Maldivian economy.

Conclusion

India’s foreign policy should be flexible, adaptive, and driven by a comprehensive understanding of the geopolitical landscape to effectively navigate and mitigate challenges arising from the growing influence of China in its neighbourhood.

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