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Abhinaya Rai asked: How plausible is it for China to commence reclamation in the IOR? This is in specific context to Maldives' amendment to its constitution.

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  • Aman Saberwal replies: China does have the capability to reclaim land from the sea as has been demonstrated by its actions in the South China Sea. The speed and scale of the reclamation has been watched with trepidation by the world and especially by the neighbouring countries. China has rapidly converted reefs into islands and built ports, airstrips, radar stations and other infrastructure including that of military relevance. This has been done at distances of over 500 nautical miles from mainland China. The capability thus exists for it to carry out reclamation in areas of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) also.

    The Maldivian Constitution was amended in July 2015 to allow foreign nationals and entities to own land in the Maldives. The provision requires a minimum investment of US$ one billion, at least seventy per cent of the land to be reclaimed and for the project to be approved by the Majlis (the Maldivian Parliament).

    Media reports of August 2015 speak of a letter by President Abdulla Yameen of Maldives to Prime Minister Narendra Modi assuring India that Maldives will keep the Indian Ocean demilitarised and will not allow foreign military bases in the Maldives. In an address to the Maldivian people after ratifying the constitutional amendment, President Yameen had said that this step would not pose any danger to either the Maldivian people or the neighbouring countries.

    Indian analysts have been worried of possible Chinese reclamation in the Maldives keeping events in the South China Sea in mind. Though as of now there does not seem to be evidence on any such Chinese activity, but it very much remains in the realm of possibility. How likely such a course of action is, only the future will tell.

    Posted on April 04, 2016