In a move that underscores the growing strategic significance of the Indian Ocean Region, the Indian Navy has officially commissioned INS Jatayu at Minicoy Island, part of the Lakshadweep archipelago. This development, aimed at enhancing India’s maritime security capabilities, comes at a time when tensions between India and the Maldives have escalated, with the Maldives expanding its military ties with China.

Minicoy Island, locally known as Maliku, with deep-rooted historical and cultural connections to the Maldives, is at the center of this geopolitical chessboard. The island residents, sharing linguistic and cultural ties with the Maldivians, view Minicoy as a significant part of their heritage and pre-colonial history. The commissioning of INS Jatayu on this strategically located island has, therefore, drawn keen attention from the Maldives, against the backdrop of strained relations with India.

The establishment of INS Jatayu is seen as a critical step in India’s efforts to secure its maritime interests and enhance operational capabilities in the face of piracy, drug trafficking, and the rise of maritime militancy. This base will serve as a forward operating point for the Indian Navy, bolstering its presence along critical Sea Lines of Communications (SLOCs) and augmenting its role as a primary responder in the region.

However, from a Maldivian perspective, the commissioning of a significant military base on Minicoy Island by India is not just a matter of regional security but also a poignant reminder of the island’s historical ties to the Maldives. The Maldives views the militarisation of Minicoy with concern, particularly against the backdrop of the current government’s efforts to expand military ties with China. This move is perceived by India as a direct challenge to the Maldives’ apprehensions about the potential for increased military confrontation in the region.

The Maldivian government, under President Mohamed Muizzu, has adopted a ‘balanced foreign policy,’ but it is increasingly perceived as leaning towards China, reflecting a strategic pivot away from India. This shift has intensified the geopolitical rivalry in the Indian Ocean, with Minicoy Island emerging as a critical flashpoint. The commissioning of INS Jatayu is likely to be viewed by Malé as a further consolidation of India’s military posture in proximity to Maldivian waters, at a time when the Maldives seeks to assert its sovereignty and expand its strategic options by engaging with China.

The establishment of INS Jatayu not only enhances India’s maritime security architecture but also adds a new dimension to the strategic calculations of the Maldives, as it maneuvers through the increasingly competitive geopolitical landscape of the Indian Ocean.