India's New Strategic Base to Boost Naval Presence Near Maldives as Male Tilts Towards Beijing
India's New Strategic Base to Boost Naval Presence Near Maldives as Male Tilts Towards Beijing
India reinforces its navy on strategically vital islands near Maldives amid soured relations, with a new base aimed at extending operational surveillance

India has announced plans for a new naval base on the “strategically important” Lakshadweep islands, located close to the Maldives, amid the ongoing diplomatic tensions between New Delhi and Male.

The new base will extend New Delhi’s “operational surveillance” of the area, the navy said in a statement late Saturday. This development comes as ties between India and the Maldives have soured since pro-China President Mohamed Muizzu last year.

March 6 opening

The new base, opening March 6 on Lakshadweep islands, will turn an existing small detachment into an “independent naval unit”, according to the navy’s statement. Lakshadweep islands lie about 130 kilometres north of the Maldives, with the new naval base on the island of Minicoy situated at their closest point. India’s navy already has a base on the Lakshadweep island of Kavaratti, but the new base will be about 258 kilometers closer to the Maldives.

“Minicoy is the southernmost island of Lakshadweep which straddles the vital sea lines of communications,” the navy said. The navy said the base will boost anti-piracy and anti-narcotic operations, and was part of a policy to “incrementally augment security infrastructure at the strategically important” islands.

India-Maldives relations turned sour after Muizzu came to power last year. After assuming power, Muizzu visited China ahead of India. In an apparent jibe at India, he also said Maldives’ small size is not a license for anyone to bully the country.

In February, Muizzu asked India to replace military personnel who operate humanitarian service planes based in Maldives with civilian technical staff. At least 75 Indian military personnel are believed to be in Maldives, and their known activities include transporting patients from remote islands and rescuing people at sea.

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