One of the most discussed topics in Sri Lanka today is the the unrest in our neighbourly Maldive islands with the democratically elected president Mr. Ibrahim Nasheed’s resignation. Many Sri Lankan websites and bloggers have been writing a lot about it. But these articles focus almost exclusively on current Maldivian politics and maybe some bits of Maldivian history. However among these I came across a rather different kind of blog post written in Sinhala language with a title saying something like, “What Should Be Sri Lanka’s Strategy on the Future of Maldives!” It’s a very thought provoking article because I don’t think many Sri Lankans have ever thought about the enormous geo-political and strategic advantage Sri Lanka has in possibly taking control of the Maldives territory when that country sinks into the Indian Ocean in the near future.
Google Satellite map of Maldives and Sri Lanka
If you are not familiar with the Maldives you may wonder what all this talk about the country sinking is. Even though the country has 298 square kilometers of land and about 1200 islands, the highest point of the Maldives is said to be just 2 meters or 7 feet. The average ground level of the country is 1.5 meters or about 5 feet above sea level. This has made Maldives officially the lowest country in the world!
Now with global warming, the sea level is expected to rise a meter or two in the Indian Ocean by the end of the this 21st century. So sadly it is very likely we may witness a slow sinking or submerging of the majority of the Maldives within our lifetime. The Maldives may be the Atlantis lost to the sea in the 21st century.
What Will Maldivian People Do When The Maldives Sinks?
Maldives currently has a population of about 400,000. So when the country sink into the ocean what are these people going to do? Their only option will be to migrate to other countries. As climate refugess these people can get visa to most countries of the world. I heard sometime back that Australia and some other coutries had said they will grant citizenship to Maldivians when it sinks. But in recent years the Maldivian government has given serious attention to this issue. They say they don’t want to be climate refugees living on dole-out. So they have setup a special fund using money from their booming tourism industry to buy land in foreign countries like Australia, India and Sri Lanka. So one day when the country submerges Maldivian people will have their own land in foreign countries to move to.
Who Will Control Maldivian Territory Without Local People Or Visible Land?
If as predicted, the sea level rises a meter or two the majority of Maldives land will submerge and the local population will have to leave the country and become citizens in foreign countries. In that case even though the Maldivians may retain rights to the lands and territory they will not likely be able to function as an independent country with a government would.
Also though the country will become inhabitable for normal living, tourist resorts that are raised above sea level and built can will still function in even when Maldives goes underwater. So big question arises when their is no local population and government, who will control the current Maldivian territory?
My guess is it will be one of these following global or regional power houses. As it is situated in the middle of the Indian Ocean in one of the worlds busiest shipping lanes whoever controls Maldives territory will wield a lot of geo-political power.
1. The Indians
2. The USA (Another Diego Garcia for the US In the Indian Ocean?)
5. Britain with Europe
There is a slim chance for even Sri Lanka to take control of the Maldivian territories when the country submerges. That is if we our Government and private sector can build a strong partnership with Maldivians now like investing and consolidation on Maldivian tourism and other sectors and most importantly inviting them to settle in Sri Lanka and making sure the largest share of Maldivians who migrate settle in Sri Lanka.