Maldives To Begin 24/7 Monitoring Of Territorial Waters To Assert Sovereignty


(MENAFN- NewsIn) By Andrew Richards/Maldives Republic

Male, March 4: President Dr Mohamed Muizzu has announced the deployment of a system for round-the-clock monitoring of Maldivian territorial waters this month. Addressing the public in Meedhoo, Raa Atoll, Muizzu underscored the urgent need for the Maldives to exercise full control over its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), an area twice the size of its landmass yet under-monitored.

Despite the expansive reach of the EEZ, the President remarked,“Although the [EEZ] is part of our territory, we did not have the capacity to monitor the area,” emphasising the untapped economic potential in fisheries. This initiative is seen as a step towards ensuring Maldivian sovereignty and security, areas that the president has pledged to reinforce by equipping the military with modern weaponry and technology.

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“So even if others come in and use this vast area, there is really nothing we can do, and no matter what kind of danger comes with it, there is nothing we could have done unless we sought the help of others,” he said.

He said that because the nation had not been able to monitor its ocean territory by itself, the Maldives has felt as though it was not standing on its own and as such true independence has eluded the nation, he said.

“So we haven't felt real self-reliance so far, no real freedom. We have this great sea, we don't manage 98 percent of the country, but it's part of our country,” he said.

The President said the government is now working to ensure that Maldives can manage its ocean on its own terms.

“We will hopefully establish a system to monitor this area 24 hours a day,” he said.

This commitment aligns with Muizzu's vision, elaborated during his maiden address to the People's Majlis earlier in February, where he placed the protection of Islam, alongside the sovereignty and independence of the Maldivian nation, at the forefront of his administration's agenda. Drawing inspiration from the military strategies of Sultans past, the President expressed his aim to enhance the Maldives' military capacity across land, sea, and air.

The president's national defence strategy not only reflects a commitment to safeguarding Maldivian territory but also resonates with historical efforts to defend against foreign invasions. Muizzu's reference to Sultan Imaaduddin I's import of cannons from Indonesia to protect the nation highlights a continued legacy of prioritising Maldivian defence capabilities, especially in the context of recent tensions in the EEZ involving foreign naval vessels.

In late January, Indian troops entered the Maldives' Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and boarded three local fishing boats. While the Maldives has formally asked the Government of India for a response as to why armed Indian troops saw fit to board Maldivian fishing boats operating within the Maldives' oceans, no response has been forthcoming from the fellow South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and UN member.

The establishment of the monitoring system is a part of a broader initiative to assert Maldives' sovereignty in the face of regional rivalries, particularly between India and China, both vying for influence in the Indian Ocean. The president's actions, including the controversial decision to deport Indian military personnel involved in operating aircraft gifted by the Indian government, signal a bold stance on maintaining independence in foreign policy and military affairs.

President Muizzu's announcement comes at a time when the United States has pledged to provide four patrol vessels to help the Maldives National Defence Force (MND) monitor its own waters. In addition, the government has signed an agreement with a Turkish company to purchase military drones with US$37 million allocated from the state's contingency budget.

While the government's initiative aims to bolster the nation's security and sovereignty, opposition figures have voiced significant criticism. Galolhu Uthuru MP Eva Abdulla expressed concerns over the government's approach, arguing that the security of Maldivian borders cannot be ensured through the use of massive weaponry or by further strengthening the military.

Abdulla advocates for peace and the restoration of amicable relations with other nations as the means to protect Maldives' borders.“It is the Maldives itself which will be disadvantaged by such an approach,” she stated, emphasising the need for diplomatic over military solutions.

“We cannot protect our borders through the use of massive weaponry,” Abdulla reiterated during a Parliamentary debate earlier in February, calling for a peaceful stance in international relations to secure Maldives' borders, economic security, and overall safety.

While President Muizzu draws inspiration from historical precedents and recent sovereignty challenges to bolster military capacity, opposition voices like Eva Abdulla advocate for a focus on diplomacy and peaceful relations to safeguard the nation's territorial integrity and future.

Additional reporting by Ibrahim H. Shihab

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