onsdag 25. november 2020

A tale of two bridges: India and China vying for influence in the Maldives

In the heart of the Indian Ocean, a 2.1-kilometer (1.3-mile) bridge snakes out of an idyllic atoll, linking the Maldives' capital Malé with its international airport. The China-Maldives Friendship Bridge, built with $200 million largely funded by Beijing, is among a growing list of Chinese projects in the tropical South Asian nation popular for its white sand beaches and turquoise lagoons.

But China's expanding footprint in the Maldives has unsettled neighboring India, which views the region as part of its traditional sphere of influence -- and at risk of being pulled away from its orbit. In a move widely seen as an attempt to counter growing Chinese influence, India announced in August a $500 million package for its own bridge. Billed "the largest civilian infrastructure project" to be built in the Maldives, the 6.7-kilometer (4.1-mile) bridge and causeway will link Malé with three nearby islands, overshadowing the Chinese bridge in length, scale and price.