With Indian security agencies sounding an alarm over the growing influence of China in the Indian Ocean region, the Ministry of Communications and IT has agreed that Beijing’s state-owned companies should be kept at bay from the Maldives’ IT and telecom sectors.
Agreeing with an analysis by Indian intelligence agencies, particularly the Research & Analysis Wing (RAW), that “China increasingly targeting nations in our immediate neighbourhood is a matter of concern,” the Ministry has suggested a proactive approach to thwarting this move. It has suggested that New Delhi plan a substantial investment in the Maldives on similar projects. This will ensure that the telecom traffic between India and the Maldives is handled through equipment installed and commissioned by companies in which New Delhi has confidence in.
The Ministry has also suggested that the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) take up the matter with the Maldives. The MEA should also request the Maldives for an amicable solution on the issue.
“The Government... may also plan substantial investment in the Maldives on similar projects [as being planned by China] ensuring that the traffic between India and the Maldives is handled through the equipment installed and commissioned in the Maldives by India,” an internal government note said.
China has been eyeing a greater presence in the Maldives for quite some time. In a surprise move just before it hosted the SAARC summit last year, the Maldives allowed China to open an embassy.
As ties with India were deteriorating over the GMR issue, President Mohd. Waheed despatched his Defence Minister to Beijing late last year, despite the fact that India underwrites the security of this island nation in a variety of ways.
Intelligence agencies were alerted after the Maldives requested China for a soft loan of Rs. 250 crore for an IT infrastructure project. Intelligence agencies picked up the first signs of a possible Maldives-China tie up when Chinese companies signed two MoUs in mid-2011.
Already, the Sri Lankan subsidiary of Chinese telecom equipment-maker Huawei Technologies has signed an agreement with the National Centre of Information Technologies, Maldives, to develop the IT infrastructure under the ‘Smart Maldives Project.’
“The proposed project assumes significance due to the fact that China can capitalise its influence over the Maldives to utilise the latter’s network once the project is implemented,” the RAW said in its internal note.