The signing of a defense and security agreement between the Maldives and the United States earlier this week is being seen as consistent with the growing alignment of US and Indian interests in the Indian Ocean (IOR) and Indo-Pacific regions.
The “Framework for U.S. Department of Defense-Maldives Ministry of Defence Defense and Security Relationship” was signed on September 10 in the US by Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for South and Southeast Asia Reed Werner and Maldivian Defence Minister Mariya Didi.
A release by the US Department of Defence said “[t]he Framework sets forth both countries’ intent to deepen engagement and cooperation in support of maintaining peace and security in the Indian Ocean, and marks an important step forward in the defense partnership.
The defense minister of Maldives also has something to say. She focused on why bilateral language and engagement is essential. For instance, it can reduce terrorism, illicit trades, piracy, etc. to some extent. She also mentioned that even mind the COVID-19 pandemic these things continue. For her, it was a significant milestone in defense and security operations.
According to the report, many necessary aspects got considered. These include senior-level dialogues, bilateral activities, engagement, and so on. Some critical areas like natural disasters and relief operations get considered.
The Indo-Pacific – or the Free and Open Indo-Pacific, as the US calls it – is a construct that envisions the region stretching from the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean in the west to the Pacific Ocean in the east as a strategic continuum in which the US, India and other maritime powers with shared interests act in concert to keep Chinese influence in check.
The agreement also setup up an institutional mechanism of a bilateral defense and security dialogue.
The enthusiasm for the agreement in New Delhi for the US-Maldives defense pact is in stark contrast to the circumstances when the US had last proposed a defense agreement with the Maldives.