Mariya Didi, Maldives Defence Secretary and US Deputy Secretary of Defense for South and Southeast Asia Reed Werner, signs the Maldives Framework Defence Agreement. Photo: Ministry of Defense, Maldives In 2017, he signed China`s Belt and Road initiative and is part of President Xi Jinping`s vision on the Maritime Silk Road, but Delhi hopes the Maldives pact with the United States will blunt the security aspects of that cooperation, even if economic cooperation continues. The United States and the tiny Indian Ocean islands in the Maldives reached a defense agreement on September 10. According to a U.S. Department of Defense press release, the Framework for U.S. Department of Defense-Maldives Ministry of Defense and Security Relationship represents an “intention to deepen engagement and cooperation for peace and security in the Indian Ocean” and represents an important step forward in the defense partnership. The United States and the Maldives have deepened their military and political relations since the election of Ibrahim Mohamed Solih as President of the Maldives.  In September 2020, the United States and Maldives signed a defense agreement in Philadelphia.  The agreement had been in development since 2013, but had previously been blocked by the Indian government`s opposition to the agreement.
Since then, Indian government officials have welcomed the agreement that the Maldives is part of the Indo-Pacific area.   The United States is one of many countries that provide military assistance to strengthen the capabilities of the Maldivian armed forces.  The defence agreement shows the amount of water that has circled the ocean since 2013, when India opposed Washington`s proposal to sign a Status of Forces (SOFA) agreement with the Maldives, thus guaranteeing that the idea was not yet born. The Wire learned that while India generally knew that talks had taken place, the text of the agreement had not been shared before it was signed Wednesday in Philadelphia. After the project began, the opposition reported that the Mohamed Waheed government had authorized the United States to build a base in the Maldives. There have been repeated denials by senior U.S. diplomats and Maldivian government officials about the possibility of a base and that the scope of the agreement is related only to the training of defense personnel. The strategic Indian Ocean country had forged close ties with Beijing between 2015 and 2018 under the previous government of President Abdullah Yameen, but changes have been seen since 2018, when the Maldives Democratic Party returned to power under President Ibrahim Solih.
The agreement sends a timely signal to China when Indian and Chinese soldiers are locked in a deadlock on the effective line of control in Ladakh. In light of its own relations with the United States, Delhi believes that the pact between the United States and the Maldives is also useful because India`s commitment to maldivific security issues tends to be viewed with suspicion. Earlier this week, the head of the Maldivian national defence force, Major General Abdulla Shamaal, was denied reports of Indian soldiers having arrived in the country to operate helicopters offered to the Indian army by the Indian army. One of the main reasons the Maldives brought down SOFA was that New Delhi opposed it. “Yes, we deterred a SOFA in 2013 because it would have justified a similar agreement with China and an offer of ours, which would have left a less desirable result than the existing state. And in 2013, the United States and the Maldives listened to us,” an Indian official familiar with the developments told The Wire. India has significantly weakened its position on the participation of supraregional powers in the Indian Ocean over the past three years.