- Recently, India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj visited Maldives. It is the first full-fledged bilateral trip from India to the island nation after the new government came to power in Maldives.
- The two countries discussed measures to strengthen bilateral ties and collaborate in the fields of defence, development cooperation, capacity building and health.
- After the independence of Maldives from the British rule in 1966, India established formal diplomatic relations with Maldives.
- India gave military aid of 1600 soldiers to Maldives through Operation Cactus to fight the armed attack of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) supported rebel groups in 1988 for an attempted coup.
- India has provided liberal economic aid and cooperated with Maldives for improving its Infrastructure.
- India is a leading development partner of Maldives and has established many of the leading institutions of Maldives including the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH), Faculty of Engineering Technology (FET) and Faculty of Hospitality & Tourism Studies (IMFFHTS).
- India offers several scholarships to Maldivian students under the following schemes:
- ICCR scholarships
- SAARC Chair Fellowship
- ITEC training & scholarships
- Technical Cooperation Scheme of Colombo Plan
- Medical scholarships
- Under former President Yameen, China significantly increased its presence in Maldives.
- India’s relation with Maldives had hit an all-time low when Yameen imposed an emergency and arrested key leaders in February 2018.
- However India’s bilateral relation with Maldives has improved substantially after the new government took over in Maldives under the leadership of Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.
- Solih ever since he swore-in as the President in November 2018, has spoken of “India first” policy.
- In December 2018, Solih visited India, during which India announced a USD 1.4 billion financial assistance to the island nation.
- India and Maldives reviewed progress on important bilateral issues, including implementation of agreed outcomes of President Solih’s visit to India in 2018.
- Both the countries also discussed ways to enhance cooperation bilaterally on a variety of issues, including consular issues, capacity development, health cooperation, consular issues, capacity building, trade, investment, economic cooperation and enhancing people-to-people contact.
- The two countries had also agreed to remain aware of each other’s concerns and aspirations for the stability of the Indian Ocean region and not allow their respective territories to be used for any activity detrimental to their interests.
- India and Maldives exchanged three agreements on visa facilitation for diplomatic and official passport holders, development cooperation, and renewable energy.
- India further reiterated it’s commitment to supporting the country in its path of peace, development, prosperity and democracy.
Significance of Maldives for India
- Countering China’s string of pearls policy
- Securing sea lanes of communication, fighting piracy and sea based terrorism
- Making Indian ocean a conflict free zone and restoring its status as sea of tranquil
- Exploring blue economy and enhancing trade.
- India attaches the highest importance to its relationship with the Maldives which is marked by trust, transparency, mutual understanding and sensitivity
- The recent visit is aimed at further strengthening the “close and friendly” relations between the two countries which came under strain during the president ship of Abdulla Yameen, who was known to be close to China.