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Maldives' Growing Inclination to China a Big Challenge - Indian Navy Chief

© Sputnik / Irina RyapolovaMale, the capital of Maldives
Male, the capital of Maldives - Sputnik International
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Research conducted by the Gateway House, an Indian think tank, shows that the ongoing three largest Chinese projects in the Maldives are together worth $1.5 billion – more than 40 percent of the archipelago nation’s GDP.

New Delhi (Sputnik) — The Maldives has become a big challenge to India at the moment as its current government is more inclined to conduct business with China. Nevertheless, the Indian government will continue to engage with the government of the archipelago nation, said the chief of the Indian Navy, Admiral Sunil Lanba.

READ MORE: India: Revocation of Emergency in Maldives is Welcome But Concerns Remain

"The constitution has been tweaked and some islands have been given to the Chinese for development. There is no news at the moment of any listening post in the Maldives. There is some development that is going on. We will have to wait and watch," Admiral Lanba said, addressing a think tank in New Delhi on Wednesday.

India's relations with the Maldives weakened during a state of emergency imposed by the Abdulla Yameen government in February this year. During the crisis, the Maldives had turned down several Indian requests including an invitation to participate in a friendly joint military exercise named "Milan" (meaning "meeting" in Hindi) in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Milan is a biennial joint naval exercise of the Indian Ocean-RIM Association (IORA).  

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Maldivian senior minister Mohamed Shainee had also invoked the Kashmir issue during the crisis, saying that the political crisis in the Maldives, like the "Kashmir issue," was an "internal" matter and that India should trust the local government to solve the problem on its own.

However, India has found some relief in the reinstatement of a joint patrolling mechanism in the economic zone.

"We [India] have an EEZ patrolling [exercise] that we regularly do with the Maldives. We just finished one [exercise] last week. The one [exercise] previously held had been called off by the Maldivian government, but that has been recommended. We continue to train their personnel. We just finished a special forces training camp. We will continue to work with the Maldivian government," Admiral Lanba added.

READ MORE: Maldives Declines Indian Invite for Joint Exercise, Analysts Cite China as Cause

China has been making rapid strides into the Maldives since 2012 when a contract awarded to India's GMR Infrastructure Limited for the development of the Male International airport was canceled and passed on to the Beijing Urban Construction Group. Beijing now has leases on 17 of the 1,200 islands that constitute the Maldives, according to former President Mohamed Nasheed.

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