Updated January 18th, 2024 at 11:14 IST

Maldives diverges from Indian collaboration, invests $37M in Turkish drones for maritime defence

Under President Muizzu's pro-China leadership, the Maldives secured a $37 million deal with a Turkish company for military drones.

Reported by: Yuvraj Tyagi
Representational | Image:Republic
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Male: In a strategic move under the leadership of pro-China President Mohamed Muizzu, the Maldives has reportedly inked a deal with a Turkish company to acquire military drones, redirecting its focus on maritime surveillance. The $37 million agreement, funded from the state's contingency budget, reflects a significant shift in defense partnerships as the nation aims to enhance its maritime security capabilities. 

President Muizzu's decision to procure Turkish military drones marks a departure from the longstanding collaboration between India and the Maldives in patrolling the Indian Ocean's exclusive economic zone. The move comes in the wake of Muizzu's diplomatic visits to Turkey and China, signaling a recalibration of the Maldives' geopolitical alignments.  

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The Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) is set to benefit from the advanced capabilities of the Turkish drones, bolstering the country's capacity for continuous surveillance in its extensive nine lakh square kilometer exclusive economic zone. 

Strained India-Maldives relations: Troop withdrawal and shifting alliances 

Tensions between India and the Maldives have escalated, with the recent request for the withdrawal of Indian troops by March 15. Historically, the defense ties between the two nations thrived during the presidencies of Mohamed Nasheed and Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. However, President Muizzu's 'India-out' campaign and his diplomatic overtures to Turkey and China have strained the relationship.

Maldives military personnel are trained in the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun. | Credit- X/@MNDF_Official

The shift in alliances is a departure from the cooperative efforts seen under previous administrations, where India played a key role in training the Maldivian military and conducting joint surveillance of the exclusive economic waters. President Muizzu's inclination towards China and Turkey is reshaping the geopolitical landscape in the Indian Ocean region. 

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Analyzing complex geopolitical dynamics 

The Maldives' move to diversify its defense partnerships highlights the complex geopolitical dynamics in the Indian Ocean. For decades, India and China have vied for influence in the strategically located island nation. President Muizzu's emphasis on the Maldives' autonomy and expansive exclusive economic zone indicates a desire to assert independence in foreign policy. 

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While the military collaboration with Turkey introduces a new player in the region, it also signifies the strained relations with India, a country with which the Maldives shares deep cultural, ethnic, and economic ties. The historical connection between the two nations, spanning language, trade, and healthcare, contrasts with the evolving geopolitical landscape that sees the Maldives seeking new alliances. 

The acquisition of Turkish military drones by the Maldives marks a significant geopolitical shift, raising questions about the future of regional alliances and the impact on longstanding relationships with key partners like India. The evolving situation underscores the intricate balance between national sovereignty, strategic interests, and historical ties in the turbulent waters of the Indian Ocean. 

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Published January 18th, 2024 at 10:14 IST