Suddenly the picture in the neighbourhood is looking rosy for India. In Bhutan, the ruling party which had stayed away from joining the Sino-India fracas at Doklam has been knocked out of contention for the final round of elections. And now the biggest cheer for South Block comes from the Maldives that had knocked a hole in India’s claims to regional superiority by a series of pointed actions. They had culminated with the Maldives declining to join any India-led regional security initiative. The good part is the incumbent regime, despite its many heavy-handed ways and intolerance of dissent, has accepted the results. The jubilation on the streets instead of violence and animosity makes for a smooth handover of power.
That India was the first to welcome the election results should tell its own story. From rations to military helicopters, India embedded itself in the Maldives till two successive administrations in Male turfed it out. A change in government was the best South Block could hope for. Now that it has happened, India will face headwinds again if China suspects that New Delhi is embedded in the US security strategy of naval dominance over the Indian Ocean. It was India’s subscription to some aspects of a US-led regional military security order that encouraged China to become a camel in the tent by first setting up an embassy in 2012.
India has provided the appropriate signals immediately after the ice-breaking Modi-Xi meeting in Wuhan. It did not attend the Indo-Pacific Business Forum in Washington in July to show that it did not subscribe to connecting intimately with the US maritime security strategy that has anti-China underpinnings. In mending fences with the Maldives, India will not just have to demonstrate that its foreign and security policy is autonomous. It will also have to accept the reality that all administrations in Male will be tempted to play the field. The old days of complete dominance, as is the case in Nepal, are over
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Source URL: Google News