MALE: Indian leader Narendra Modi yesterday inaugurated a coastal radar system and military training centre in the Maldives yesterday, as New Delhi seeks to fend off Chinese influence in the strategically-placed nation. The Maldives, a low-lying archipelago of more than a thousand tiny coral islands south of the Indian subcontinent, straddles the world’s busiest east-west maritime route.
India, the country’s traditional ally, had watched former strongman leader Abdulla Yameen’s growing political and financial reliance on Beijing with unease. But Yameen’s election loss last September has seen the new administration under President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih gravitate back to the nation’s traditional benefactors in New Delhi.
Modi and Solih inaugurated the training facility yesterday, officials said, adding that both projects cost New Delhi $26 million. A joint statement said the two sides discussed the need to maintain peace and security in the Indian Ocean region. The leaders pledged to combat piracy, terrorism, organized crime and trafficking through “coordinated patrolling and aerial surveillance, exchange of information, and capacity building,” the statement said.
Modi is making his second trip to the Maldives in less than seven months. The two-day visit is also Modi’s first foreign visit since taking the oath of office for his second term after an emphatic election win in May. Under Modi’s leadership, India earlier this year granted a $800 million line of credit to the Maldives, which remains heavily indebted to Beijing. The Indian premier next travels to neighboring Sri Lanka, where he will hold talks with political leaders during a brief stopover.- AFP