India–China rivalry in the Indian Ocean: emergence of a new Indo-Maldives strategic dynamic

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Abstract

After India's military intervention to thwart a coup in the Maldives in 1988, India had taken for granted its strategic relationship with the Maldives since the early 1990s. However, from around mid-2000s, Sino-Maldives linkages dramatically increased, threatening the Indo-Maldives strategic relationship. Yet, as a result of the growing Sino-Indian rivalry, Indo-Maldives strategic relations have also undergone substantive changes: from India as the de facto port of first call, to articulation of an ‘India First' policy in 2005, which then underwent substantiations, especially given China's Belt and Road Initiative, towards an ‘India dominated' strategic policy since late-2018. Consequently, even though Sino-Indian competition has provided significant economic opportunities to the Maldives, and the stability of the new Indo-Maldives strategic dynamic hinges on domestic factors, overall the Maldives’ foreign policy room for manoevre has been constrained. This case suggests that while external structural factors may not determine all foreign policy choices, they nevertheless significantly constrain the behavior of small states.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of the Indian Ocean Region
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 Mar 2021

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