Event ReportsPublished on Sep 06, 2015
During an interaction at ORF, Maldives' delegation of senior officials reassured the audience that the Maldivian Constitution continues to restrict establishment of foreign military facilities and that Male will never compromise the security balance of the Indian Ocean.
The Maldives says it will never allow China to use its land for military purposes

During an interaction at ORF on 6 August 2015, Maldivian senior officials reiterated that their country will not allow China to use its land for military purposes.

Touching on the country's critical geographical location in the Indian Ocean, the delegation emphasised Male’s interest to keep the Indian Ocean free of conflicts. The discussion also touched on the Indian Ocean being a critical region in the 21st century just like Europe was in the last two centuries. There is going to be an inevitable shift of attention from Europe to Asia and Indian Ocean is going to be the main theatre of geopolitics.

The delegation of senior officials underlined the importance of Maldives-India bilateral relationship in the developing geopolitical discourse in the Indian Ocean region. The Maldives’ objective in placing itself in such a discourse is first and foremost to have a policy dialogue with India and to maintain and take forward the existing partnership. The Maldives and India have a practical partnership that goes back to 1991 with the start of the Dosti Exercises. Policy dialogues between Male and New Delhi are a platform to address common issues on Indian Ocean security.

The discussion also touched upon a tripartite arrangement between the Maldives, India and Sri Lanka to address challenges of piracy originating from Somalia and security challenges emanating from the Indian Ocean. The Indian Ocean is also being used by organised crime syndicates, which poses non-traditional security threats. This is again an area in which the Maldives and India have been working very closely. What India does for the Maldives is two-fold: one, continuing policy dialogue with Male’s security and defence organisations, and two, building the capacity of MNEF regarding operational readiness and working together in countering this threat in the Indian Ocean.

Reflecting on joint exercises and patrols between the Maldives and India, the delegation assured that despite the "rumours that go around in the media circle about penetration of some other countries in the region," the partnership that the Maldives has with India on these issues not only remains very strong, but has also been expanding over the last few years.

Moving on to briefly comment on the political developments within the Maldives, the delegation remarked that "it is normal for a vibrant democracy where democratic actors compete for space, for power, for influence. Whenever there is a pluralistic society, freedom is exercised and whenever freedom is newly gained, there will always be frictions. That is natural and in a vibrant democracy as in India, which is one of the most advanced and one of the most compelling success stories in any part of the world, I am sure you will agree with me that democracy is not an easy system to introduce and it takes a lot for a nation to let democracy thrive. That is what the Maldives is trying to do."

The interaction then focused on the recent amendment in the Maldivian constitution that allows 100 percent foreign ownership of land in the Maldives. The delegates firmly affirmed their stance, citing it as a purely economic decision. Further emphasising that the move is an important step to strengthen Maldivian economy, the delegates detailed the importance of the tourism sector for the country. The primary industries are fisheries and agriculture, and while they were dominant in the late 70s and early 80s, now they contribute an insignificant amount to the GDP, which stands at below 2% currently. Tourism’s contribution to the country's GDP through direct and indirect contributions comes to over 45%.

The delegation put forth that the Maldivian approach to foreign policy has not changed and countries should not let the constitutional amendment reflect a different picture. They highlighted the conditions dictating the rule on private ownership of land: The Parliament (the Majlis) has to pass a law approving any project that will be eligible for ownership of land, the project has to be an investment above one billion US dollars, and 70% of the land that goes for private ownership has to be newly reclaimed land. Moreover, only 10% of the existing land area of the Maldives is available for private ownership of land. The delegation reiterated President Yameen’s remarks that this development will not allow any security breaches in the Indian Ocean.

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