Maldives- Pakistan relations

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Maldives’ capacity building agreement in power sector with Pakistan

July 6, 2018: The Times of India

Now locked in a bitter political standoff with India, Maldives continues to pose fresh security challenges for India almost on a monthly basis. After the helicopter and work permit snub, Male has now gone ahead and signed a capacity building agreement in the power sector with Pakistan.

While this would have been unthinkable until four years ago, the fact is that under Maldives President Abdulla Yameen there has been growing cooperation between the two countries.

The Maldives state electricity company Stelco officials visited Pakistan last week and signed an MoU for cooperation in "institution-building" activities. The timing of the MoU is significant for India as it comes when Male has stopped issuing work permits to Indians delaying work on projects being handled by India like the construction of a police academy.

Indian officials here are struggling to figure out what Male wants from Pakistan when Stelco's all major projects are already being handled by Chinese companies.

"Given its precarious financial situation, Pakistan cannot do much to help Maldives. But Yameen is trying his best to reduce Indian footprint and bring in elements hostile to India to undermine Indian influence in Maldives, even at the cost of interests of the Maldivian people," said an Indian official.

One reason why Maldives has dragged its feet on India's proposal for deploying a Dornier surveillance aircraft on its territory is said to be its consideration of an offer of a similar aircraft from Pakistan.

China had in 2016 proposed a $ 10 million line of credit to Male for acquiring 3 Super Mushshak aircraft built by the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex. The offer was said to have been revived by Pakistan during the visit by Pakistan army chief Qamar Bajwa to the Maldives earlier this year.

While Male has again reminded India that the deadline for removing its naval choppers has expired, it has remained evasive on accepting India's Dornier aircraft offered in 2016.

"The talk about Dornier seems to have all along been a deceptive tactic of Male meant to soften it's decision to get rid of Indian helicopters. Yameen actually doesn't want any Indian footprint in Maldives," said an official here.

Indian officials closely following Pakistan's aircraft offer said Male probably doesn't realise that just acquiring an aircraft is not enough as operation of such assets require considerable technical manpower and support infrastructure.

"Who will pay for the deployment of these maintenance staff and also servicing of the aircraft? Maldives until now has got everything on a platter from India," said a source.

Indian navy and Coast Guard staff are mainly technical experts, and function transparently, with exemplary discipline, under the control of Maldives authorities, said the official.

Indian authorities believe that the presence of Pakistan officials will see development of covert intelligence modules who will target India. The fear is that this might seriously complicate the security situation in Maldives which is already struggling to check radicalisation.

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