Maldives potential US “lilypad”: Russia & India report

The US is acquiring some very valuable real estate in the Indian Ocean by exploiting the perceived insecurity of the political elites who usurped power and currently matter in Malé, writes M K Bhadrakumar for the Russia & India Report.

The American diplomats on the South Asia beat maintain that there are “no plans for US base in Maldives.” The US stance is that their Status of Forces Agreement [SOFA] under negotiation with the government of Maldives is a “normal practice.”

They argue, the US has signed SOFAs with over 100 countries, so what’s the big deal. The Maldives Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim says that as per his understanding, the SOFA would facilitate “joint military training exercises” that the US has proposed. Meanwhile, Chinese newspaper Global Times has carried on Monday a Xinhua agency report appropriately entitled “Maldives could allow increased US military presence.”

Do these reports contradict each other? To my mind, the reports are variations of a single theme. Consider the following: The current US policy disfavours the setting up of old-fashioned military bases abroad, which would be wasteful and unwarranted in the post-Cold War era. Clearly, Okinawa in Japan or Yongsan in Seoul are a thing of the past.

The United States is currently negotiating a SOFA with Afghanistan. But Washington maintains that it has no intentions of setting up military bases in Afghanistan – although the intention is quite obviously to establish open-ended American military presence in the region.

No one can take exception to such diplomatic sophistry. The former US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld who had a way with words conjured up a brilliant expression to describe the post-modern American military bases abroad. He called them “lily-pads” and embedded the label in a new military doctrine signifying a fundamental shift in how the US forces are deployed worldwide in the 21st century.

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