US seeking military presence in the Maldives?June 6, 2013
Reports have surfaced that the US and the Maldives are negotiating a Status of Forces Agreement that could pave the way for a future American military presence in the Indian Ocean nation.
The leaked draft SOFA being discussed by Male (capital of the Maldives) and Washington “incorporates the principal provisions and necessary authorisations for the temporary presence and activities of the U.S. forces in the Republic of Maldives and, in the specific situations indicated herein, the presence and activities of United States contractors in the Maldives.”
Acknowledging that the discussion had taken place, the U.S. embassy in Colombo has, however, clarified that there are no immediate (emphasis added) plans for a permanent military base in the Maldives.
The Maldives are strategically located just southwest of the Indian subcontinent, almost in the center of the Indian Ocean.
While the US already has a large presence on the British administered island of Diego Garcia, a presence in the Maldives would put US forces much closer to potential hot spots all over South Asia. Also, the Maldives sit astride the major cross-ocean shipping route, and a US presence there would make it another choke point for any Chinese shipping should a Sino-American conflict heat up.
Finally, a presence in the Maldives is a clear counter move to China’s development of the Pakistani port of Gwadar.
A new “great game” is most certainly on.