Beijing Expanding Presence In Maldives Could Trigger Another Clash Between India, China?

China and India, who have had a series of clashes along the line of actual control remain locked in a covert war despite the coronavirus pandemic. China’s efforts to increase its influence and presence in the Maldives has outraged the Indian government, reports the Sputnik.

From Ladakh To Sikkim, India-China Border Dispute Intensifies Along The Line Of Actual Control

In another move that could severely impact ties between India and China, the latest satellite images of face-lifted Feydhoo Finolhu Island in the Indian Ocean have posed serious concerns for India.

A satellite image from January 2018 displays the actual size of the island which is approximately 38,000 sq. metres. The other image, from February 2020, displays land reclaimed by China following the destruction of the reef, which made the island 100,000 sq. metres. The image also shows ongoing construction of the reclaimed area.

The island, which is almost 600 km from India and close to Malé airport, was reportedly leased to a Chinese firm for 50 years in December 2016 by the Maldives.

In the strategically crucial South China Sea, China has constructed seven artificial islands after reef destruction in the Spratly Islands. It took enormous amounts of sand and coral reefs to add 1,300 ha to the islands. China’s ministry of defence said in 2018 that Beijing has a “natural right as a sovereign nation” to deploy military equipment in the Spratly Islands.

China maintains that it has sovereign rights over the relevant waters in the South China Sea where construction took place. As part of its One Belt One Road (BRI) initiative to increase its influence in the region, Beijing has been striving to construct infrastructure in the South-East Asian nations as well.

Both India and China have been aggressively engaged in strengthening their economic and military presence across the globe. While defence experts in India have accused China of creating “string of pearls” around India, China, on the contrary, has been working on to challenge reverse Indian “string of pearls”, which aims to surround China on all the sides.