by Indrani Bagchi

NEW DELHI: With Maldives defence minister Mariya Ahmed Didi due to visit India on her first tour this week, New Delhi plans to renew its offer to extend the coastal surveillance radar systems (CSRS) project to the island neighbour, as part of the defence cooperation dialogue.

The dialogue is part of the defence cooperation agreement signed with former President Abdulla Yameen in 2016. However, as relations between New Delhi and Male went into a freeze, Yameen refused to allow the installation of Indian radars, preferring to turn to China.

Sources said the CSRS is being offered to other countries as well, which will contribute to creating a network of information to aid maritime domain awareness (MDA) in the Indian Ocean region. India has offered the system to Myanmar where discussions are reportedly at an advanced stage, as well as to Bangladesh. Thailand has also been tapped, while in Indonesia, India has offered to set up a pilot project in one of the islands.

India has an older version of these radars in Seychelles and Mauritius and Sri Lanka. Ultimately the data collected would feed into the newly set up International Fusion Centre which once its fully operational could see India invite partner countries to be part of it. "As we interact with Indian Ocean partner countries, with the desire that ocean space should be regulated, governed through maritime regulations. We will work with partner countries through their own maritime security priorities," sources said.

This is why India is now very wary of dubbing its relations with countries in the Indian Ocean as seeking "bases." This term, evoking memories of US or China, has created political opposition to India's outreach to countries, even Mauritius and Seychelles.