India to build new naval base close to Maldives amid tensions over China ties

AP , Monday 4 Mar 2024

India announced plans for a new naval base off the country’s southwest coast and close to Maldives, as tensions are running high between Delhi and the island nation.

An activist of Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) walks with flags after a protest outside the Lak
An activist of Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) walks with flags after a protest outside the Lakshadweep administration office in Kochi, Kerala state, India, June 15, 2021. AP

 

The Indian Navy said Saturday it plans to build a base called INS Jatayu on Minicoy, the southernmost island in the Lakshadweep archipelago. India’s Lakshadweep islands lie about 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of the Maldives. It said a more detailed plan would be published on Wednesday.

“The base will enhance operational reach and facilitate the Indian Navy’s operational effort towards anti-piracy and anti-narcotics operations in the Western Arabian Sea. It will also augment the Indian Navy’s capability as the first responder in the region and augment connectivity with the mainland,” the navy statement said.

The Indian Navy said the base was part of a policy to “incrementally augment security infrastructure at the strategically important” islands.

India already has a base in the Lakshadweeps, INS Dweeprakshak on Kavaratti.

Tensions between India and Maldives have grown since Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu came to power last year.

After taking power, Muizzu visited China ahead of India and said Maldives’ small size is not a license for anyone to bully the country, in an apparent response to calls on Indian social media for tourists to boycott Maldives after three Maldives deputy ministers made derogatory posts about Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The ministers were later suspended.

In February, Muizzu asked India to replace military personnel who operate humanitarian service planes based in Maldives with civilian technical staff. At least 75 Indian military personnel are believed to be in Maldives and their known activities include transporting patients from remote islands and rescuing people at sea.

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