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Why Is the Maldives Spurning India?

One might expect there to be a deep reservoir of goodwill between India and the Maldives, given their longstanding relationship spanning strategic, economic, and cultural domains. But, much to India’s alarm, the Maldives has lately been courting China as a new patron and nurturing Islamist radicalism.

NEW DELHI – Far from the headline-grabbing wars in Ukraine and Gaza, in a corner of the Arabian Sea, a bizarre diplomatic conflict has been playing out between India and the Maldives. And it is threatening India’s strategic interests.

India and the Maldives are unlikely adversaries. Spanning over 1.2 million square miles, India is 11,000 times bigger than the 115-square-mile Maldives. India’s population of more than 1.4 billion dwarfs the Maldives’ 500,000.

Moreover, the Maldives has depended on India, its nearest neighbor, for support through all manner of crises. When Sri Lankan mercenaries attempted a coup in the Maldives in 1988, Indian paratroopers parachuted in to put it down. When a tsunami pummeled the archipelago in 2004, Indian ships and aid workers came to the rescue. And when the Maldives’ only water-desalination plant broke down in 2014, India sent planes and Navy tankers filled with potable water.