The meeting between Union Home Minister P Chidambaram and his Maldives counterpart Mohamed Shihab on Tuesday is an important step towards fighting terror.
The main reason being an increase in the activities of the Lashkar-e-Tayiba in the Maldives. The Pakistan-based outfit is already in the process to setting up a major base there.
Reports regarding the Maldives being the next terror hub for the Lashkar had started trickling in immediately after the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai.
In fact, the Lashkar has started to set up a base in the Maldives around two years before the Mumbai attacks, and it had identified nearly 600 isolated islands in the country to set up base.
Intelligence Bureau sources told rediff.com that India cannot afford any slip in its Maldives policy, since the approach of the Lashkar is 'extremely aggressive' and 'we need to keep a constant vigil in order to keep them at bay.'
The Lashkar now has nearly 1,000 of its operatives active in the Maldives, say IB sources. And the worrying factor for India is that at least 60 per cent of them are Indian nationals.
Closer ties with the Maldives will ensure the extradition process of these people would be easy, so that India can curb the Lashkar operations there.
The setting up of anti-terror measures and sharing of information with the Maldives is extremely crucial. The IB says that there is no way in which the operations of the Lashkar can be curbed unless there is very good intelligence sharing with their counterparts in the Maldives.
Since the past three months, there has been an increase in LeT activities in the Maldives, and several persons from Lashkar's Kerala module have slipped into the country and are busy setting up operations there.
Another activity that has been noticed is that the activists of the Jaish-e-Mohammad have joined hands with the Lashkar and are training operatives in Tamil Nadu for the Maldives chapter.
The IB says that apart from trying to launch terror operations on India, terror groups would also try and target the huge tourist population in the Maldives. Over 500,000 tourists visit the Maldives annually.
India is doing its bit to prevent the Maldives from turning into another terror hub by helping in patrolling the territorial waters to keep a watch on terror groups. IB sources say there are nearly 70 sleeper cells operating in the country.
T V Sriram of PTI adds:
Maldives on Thursday vowed not to allow its territory to be used for terrorist activities against its neighbours as reports surfaced that Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Tayiba is eyeing isolated islands in the archipelago to be used as bases.
"Maldives will not allow terrorists to operate in the country. We will not allow terrorists to put the Maldives' and our neighbours' peace and security at risk," Presidential Spokesman Mohamed Zuhair told PTI from Male.
India will soon ink an agreement with its southern neighbour to combat terror threats jointly.
The two countries will sign a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation on anti-terror measures and information sharing before April, according to officials.