India setting up radar network in Maldives

Indian MountainIndia is installing 10 radars across islands in the Maldives to help it monitor the surrounding seas.

The radars, besides assisting the Maldives in building a maritime surveillance system, will also help India keep track of its strategic interests in the region.

“Some (of the radars) have already been set up. India is also training (our) men to operate and run the radars. At least two men would be required (for each radar),” Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed said.

Nasheed is Maldives’ first democratically-elected president.

Terming relations with India as “excellent,” Nasheed said his country would want New Delhi to be a member of the UN Security Council to fight issues like global warming, which for him was a security problem.

“We should have India at the Security Council,” he said, adding this would enable Delhi to be part of the decision making in a group till now confined to the five-member UN group.

On the issue of radars, Nasheed added they were being installed on the request of the Maldivian government.

The Maldives, made of 1,192 islands, stretches for 1,200 nautical miles from north to south and the radars would help in keeping a watch on activities around the vast stretches of the Indian Ocean, Nasheed said, playing down India’s own strategic interests in the area.

“India is not trying to influence us. We wanted the radars. A lot of bio-mass poaching (poaching of fish and corals) happens in the area. So does a lot of illegal commercial fishing,’’ he said on Monday.

Diplomatic sources in Male told HT that cargo worth more than $700 million passes through the sea channel near the Maldives. Strategically, the islands are important because of their location in the Indian Ocean. Both China and US either have or are strengthening naval presence in the area.

“Dio Garcia (where the US and UK jointly operate a military base with powerful radars) is located in the region and actually nearer than it is perceived to be. China is also building ports in Hambantota (Sri Lanka) and Gwadar (Pakistan),” a diplomatic source said.

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