New Delhi: In a bid to decrease the influence of India in the Indian Ocean region, China is making all efforts to expand its footprint in the Republic of Maldives.
According to a report, China is not only poised to establish an embassy in Maldives but is also stepping up its efforts to earn important development projects in the 1,190-island archipelago, which is strategically located astride the major sealanes in the Indian Ocean.
The Indian Ocean region is of significant strategic, military, transport, energy and commercial interest to India as well as China.
The report claimed that Beijing is interested in developing Ihavandhoo and Maarandhoo Islands and is contributing to the development of Maldives’ second international airport at Hanimaadhoo.
"The islands in question are located in the Haa Alif Atoll, situated in the north of Maldives. China wants a presence in these islands since they are the closest to India and Sri Lanka,`` an official was cited as saying by the report.
In fact, reports had earlier claimed that China is planning to establish a naval submarine base in Marao.
In May, Wu Bangguo, chairman of the standing committee of the Chinese National People`s Congress, visited Male, further underlining China`s efforts to increase its presence in Maldives.
In a bid to counter China`s strategic moves, a wary India is also increasing its defence engagement with countries like Maldives, Mauritius and Seychelles.
Indian Navy and Coast Guard warships are patrolling the pirate-infested waters of the Maldives.
Indians are the largest expatriates in the picturesque island nation, with a population of over 19,000. India was among the first countries to recognise Maldives after its independence in 1965 and to establish diplomatic relations with this country.
India’s military establishment is wary of China’s “string of pearls” strategy — the phrase used to describe the pockets of influence that Beijing wants to dot around India.