strategic-comfort-with-the-maldives

Context: The visit of Foreign Secretary to the Maldives is significant for taking forward bilateral relations. 

India-Maldives bilateral relations

  • Historical relations: India and the Maldives have had bilateral relations for centuries. Technology has made connectivity easier for everyday contact and exchanges. 
  • People to people contact: Maldivian students attend educational institutions in India and patients fly here for superspeciality healthcare, aided by a liberal visa-free regime extended by India.
  • Tourism is the mainstay of Maldivian economy. The country is now a major tourist destination for some Indians and a job destination for others. 
  • Given the geographical limitations imposed on the Maldives, India has exempted the nation from export curbs on essential commodities.
  • Emergency assistance: 
    • In 1988, when armed mercenaries attempted a coup against President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, India sent paratroopers and Navy vessels and restored the legitimate leadership under Operation Cactus. 
    • The 2004 tsunami and the drinking water crisis in Male were other occasions when India rushed assistance. 
    • To help in COVID-19 disruption, India rushed $250 million aid in quick time. New Delhi also rushed medical supplies to the Maldives, started a new cargo ferry and also opened an air travel bubble, the first such in South Asia. 

Significance:

  • Under Maldivian President Ibrahim Solih, bilateral cooperation, especially on the economic front, has become a ‘model’ that New Delhi can adopt to make the Prime Minister’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ a sustained success.
  • ‘India First’ policy : Given ex-President Yameen’s tilt towards China and bias against India when in power, India can take respite in the ‘strategic comfort’ of the ‘India First’ policy of the Solih government. 

Challenges:

  • Protests from the Yameen camp: Ex-President Yameen’s camp has launched an ‘India Out’ campaign against New Delhi’s massive developmental funding for creating physical, social and community infrastructure.
    • They are also protesting Maldivian President Solih’s government retaining two India-gifted helicopters and their operational military personnel. 
    • Maldives had deployed the helicopters for humanitarian operations. 
  • Political instability: India should be concerned about the protests as well as the occasional rumblings within the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

Given this background and India’s increasing geostrategic concerns in the shared seas, taking forward the multifaceted cooperation to the next stage quickly could also be at the focus of Mr. Shringla’s visit.

Image source: South Asia journal

 

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Q) Bilateral cooperation with Maldives, especially on the economic front, has become a ‘model’ that New Delhi can adopt to make the Prime Minister’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ a sustained success. Analyze India’s bilateral relation  with Maldives. (250 words)