Q) In accordance with the “Neighbourhood First Policy” of the government, India remains a committed development partner for a stable, prosperous and peaceful Maldives. Comment.
Why this Question?
Maldives has recently won the UNGA election.
Key demand of the Question
Significance of India-Maldives relations.
Comment- here we have to express our knowledge and understanding of the issue and form an overall opinion thereupon.
Give a brief context of India- Maldives relations.
In the first part, write about the significance of Maldives for India.
In the next part, write about challenges that have emerged in the engagement between the two countries.
Conclude with a way forward.
Maldives holds immense strategic importance for India under its Neighbourhood First Policy owing to its location in the Indian Ocean. Both the countries share ethnic, cultural, linguistic, religious and commercial ties and the relations between them have been evolving with a few ups and downs.
Importance of Maldives for India
- Strategic – Maldives is located in proximity to the West coast of the Indian peninsula. Hence, any disturbance in the nation can have an effect on India. Recently, the influence of China has grown in the region that can be detrimental to India’s interests.
- Economic- it is situated at the hub of important sea lanes in the Indian Ocean through which a major chunk of India’s trade occurs. India is also Maldives’s 5th largest trading partner.
- Diaspora- a significant number of Indian communities are present in Maldives that are involved in sectors like hospitality, education, health, etc.
- Increase in Maritime activity- in recent times, the maritime activity in the Indian Ocean has increased enormously. This requires India to maintain cordial relations with Maldives to hold its position across the region.
Challenges in the Bilateral relations
- Political instability- it has been a major concern for India due to the proximity of the island nation. Continuous protests as well as the occasional rumblings within the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), apparently between President Solih and Speaker and former President Nasheed may pose serious challenges for India.
- China- The country has maintained a close relationship with China, especially in financial terms, under its previous government. It has also emerged as an important part of China’s String of Pearls policy.
- Radicalisation- in the past few years, a number of Maldivians have been drawn towards the Islamic State (IS), Pakistan based madrassas and other radical organisations.
- The current government in Maldives shares cordial relations with India. The government should use this opportunity to further boost the relations.
- Using the Indian diaspora in Maldives as a tool to influence the people and strengthen bilateral relations.
- Use of soft power like films, festivals, music, people to people contacts to boost the relations.
- Delivering the promised support and projects on time.
Given this background and India’s increasing geostrategic concerns in the shared seas, taking forward the multifaceted cooperation with Maldives to the next stage should be at the focus of the bilateral relations between the two countries.