Now locked in a bitter political stand-off with India, Maldives continues to pose fresh security challenges for India almost on a monthly basis. After the helicopter and work permit snub, Male has now signed a capacity-building agreement in the power sector with Pakistan.
Officials of the Maldives state electricity company, Stelco, visited Pakistan last week and signed an MoU for cooperation in “institution-building” activities. The timing of the MoU is significant for India as it comes when Male has stopped issuing work permits to Indians delaying work on projects being handled by India like the construction of a police academy.
Indian officials here are struggling to figure out what Male wants from Pakistan when Stelco’s all major projects are already being handled by Chinese companies.
An Indian official said, “its precarious financial situation, Pakistan cannot do much to help Maldives. But President Yameen is trying his best to reduce Indian footprint and bring in elements hostile to India to undermine Indian influence in Maldives.”
One reason why Maldives has dragged its feet on India’s proposal for deploying a Dornier surveillance aircraft on its territory is said to be its consideration of an offer of a similar aircraft from Pakistan.
While Male has again reminded India that the deadline for removing its naval choppers has expired, it has remained evasive on accepting India’s Dornier aircraft offered in 2016. “The talk about Dornier seems to have all along been a deceptive tactic of Male meant to soften its decision to get rid of Indian helicopters. Yameen actually doesn’t want any Indian footprint in Maldives,” said an official here.
Indian officials said Male probably doesn’t realise that acquiring an aircraft is not enough as operation of such assets require considerable technical manpower and support infrastructure. “Who will pay for the deployment of the maintenance staff and aircraft servicing? Maldives until now has got everything on a platter from India,” said a source.
Indian authorities believe that the presence of Pakistani officials will see development of covert intelligence modules which will target India. The fear is that this might complicate the security situation in Maldives which is struggling to check radicalisation.