Who Will Control Maldives Territory If Maldive Islands Sink In The Sea?

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.

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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?)

3.The Chinese


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.

20 thoughts on “Who Will Control Maldives Territory If Maldive Islands Sink In The Sea?

  1. Joanne

    It’s good that people such as yourself as making others aware of what’s going on in your country. We have a lot of unreast in my country as well (USA) and someone times people don’t want to really know what’s going on.

    1. Sri Lanka News Online Post author

      Thanks Joanne. Though most Americans don’t know what’s happening in small countries like Maldives and Sri Lanka, I assure you, your US embassy and Government plays one of the most dominant and crucial role in any domestic issues we have in our countries.

  2. Bethany

    Why is it that the Maldivians couldn’t continue to control it? Do you think it’s a proximity issue? As in… possession being 9/10ths of the law… so whoever occupies, wins?

    I guess if there continue to be resorts and “stuff” there I don’t see why the local government couldn’t retain some control.

    1. Sri Lanka News Online Post author

      I find it hard to imagine how Maldives be able to function as a independent country when their major islands sink and their people leave the country wholesale and become citizens of foreign countries like Australia, India and Sri Lanka. But like you say, whatever form of local government is left or the Maldivians living abroad when the inhabitant islands sink and the locals leave the country, will probably always have some say and control. But will they be able to still have Maldives listed as a country of the world? Will the world allow them to retain their UN seat when their is no local people with local lands and all the people that one’s lived on the sunken islands now live in several other foreign countries? What will happen to their UN seat? Maldive may probably be the first country in the world since the UN was formed to face this kind of situation.

      My guess is in such cases when the their no longer a presence of a local people then its probable a major world power or a strong neighboring country will seize control of the area for their own security or to prevent some other foreign power taking control of the area or simply for its financial and strategic advantages. This has happened in the past in many Pacific islands. It also happened near Maldives, in the Indian Ocean, in a group of islands called Diego Garcia. In the case of Diego Garcia, during the world wars British exiled off the few local indigenous people and made it a military base. Now this military base is controlled by USA and the exiled indigenous people don’t have a government or can’t return to their islands. The same can happen to Maldives if they are not careful.

  3. Debra Eckerling

    Wow. I had no idea. Thanks for filling me in on what is going on in your country. You are providing such an important service.

  4. Liz

    It will be very interesting to see what happens. Thank you for keeping us all informed. I feel sad for those people to have to eventually leave their home.

    1. Sri Lanka News Online Post author

      Lot of Maldivians I know like to travel abroad to countries like Sri Lanka, India etc. and see mountains and miles and miles of land. But they all like to go back to their coutry however small it is. But one day they won’t have a land to go back! That’s a really sad thought :(

  5. Bandara

    Good for our coastal folk for sailing and establishing a paradise isle, great as no indrgenious people were affected.

    Not like our fellows who are shooting our coastal folk

    1. Sri Lanka News Online Post author

      What do you mean no ingenious people were affected? Did you read the article before commenting?

      As for our coastal folk going their and establishing, I don’t know whether Maldives sinking is good for Sri Lanka or not. It will depend on how forward thinking we be now itself.

  6. Jane Bakerson

    I remember seeing the coverage of the government meeting held underwater. That really connected with people I think. The initiative to buy properties for Maldivians elsewhere is also a far-sighted one. Thanks for bringing us up to date on this issue.

    1. Sri Lanka News Online Post author

      That’s a brilliant idea. Ideally I think that is what should happen. But I don’t think any of these two countries will like to cede land for Maldivians. Both these countries have one of the highest population densities per square kilometer in the world and therefore are already short of land. If any country is going to cede land to Maldives I think it would be Australia.


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