New Delhi, Jan 17: The Maldivian government has inked a USD 37-million deal with a Turkish company for the acquisition of military drones. The signing of a USD 37-million deal between the Maldivian government and a Turkish company for the acquisition of military drones marks a significant geopolitical shift that may alter the dynamics of maritime security in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
So far India has been involved in patrolling the Maldivian high seas. Now Turkish drones (Maldivian officials are yet to confirm) are a clear manifestation of President Mohamed Muizzu's anti-India rhetoric and his pursuit of looking into alternative alliances since assuming power in November 2023.
According to reports from Maldivian media outlet Adhadhu, the funds for the Turkish drones have been allocated from the state's contingency budget.
The news media outlet quoting sources suggests that the Finance Ministry has already released part of the payment to the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF).
The agreement with the Turkish company involves a payment plan in instalments, with the entire transaction slated for completion within the current year.
Turkey's prominence in the field of drone technology is noteworthy, with the country emerging as a leading exporter of both armed and unarmed drones. The likely deployment of Aksungur drones, designed for maritime operations and surveillance may be used by Maldives.
Maldives President Muizzu's recent comments at Velana International Airport itself speak on the premeditated decision behind this move.
Emphasizing that Maldives is not confined to the backyard of any specific country, Muizzu highlighted the vast exclusive economic zone of nine lakh square kilometres controlled by the nation.
This thinly veiled reference to India suggests a desire for increased autonomy and control over maritime surveillance.
"We have begun the work to build our power and our capacity to do continuous surveillance of the nine-lakh square kilometer exclusive economic zone. Hopefully, soon we will establish our capacity to manage this vast area," President Muizzu stated, signalling a clear intent.
The amendment to the Import Duty Waiver Procedure by the President's Office earlier this year, granting discretion to waive import duties on items for security services, adds a layer of policy adjustments facilitating the procurement of military drones.
The backdrop of strained relations between India and Maldives, exacerbated by President Muizzu's anti-India rhetoric, further underscores the geopolitical significance of this move.
Despite being a key maritime neighbour in India's 'Neighbourhood First Policy,' Maldives' shifting allegiances, characterized by President Muizzu's pro-China stance and a break from traditional ties, may further add complexity to regional geopolitics.
The decision's far-reaching implications extend beyond maritime security, impacting diplomatic ties and reshaping the geopolitical contours of the Indian Ocean.
The coming months will likely witness further developments, revealing the extent of this paradigm shift in the Maldivian geopolitical playbook.
The upcoming Majlis or Parliamentary elections in Maldives, scheduled for March 17, will significantly influence the trajectory of the current government's actions even though the opposition candidate has won the mayor’s election in Male held last week giving the first setback to the Muizzu’s government.