Foreign Policy Watch: India-Maldives

Maldives decides to end Hydrographic Survey Pact with India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Hydrographic Survey Pact

Mains level: Read the attached story

Hydrographic Survey

Central Idea

  • The Maldives government has chosen not to renew a hydrographic survey agreement with India, marking a significant change in bilateral relations.

Hydrographic Survey Pact: A Backgrounder

  • Nature of Hydrographic Surveys: These surveys involve mapping water bodies to facilitate safe and efficient maritime transportation.
  • 2019 Agreement: During Prime Minister Modi’s state visit to the Maldives in June 2019, an MoU was signed for cooperation in hydrography between the Indian Navy and the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF).

Activities under the Pact

  • Joint Hydrographic Surveys: Three joint surveys were conducted in 2021, 2022, and 2023, involving Indian Naval Ships like INS Darshak and INS Sutlej.
  • Survey Objectives: The surveys aimed to update navigational charts and support sectors like tourism and fisheries. They also involved tidal observations and identifying new shoals.
  • Support to MNDF: India provided hydrographic equipment and training to MNDF personnel, aligning with its policy of supporting the Maldives in establishing hydrographic capabilities.

India’s Hydrographic Survey Agreements with Other Countries

  • Global Hydrographic Efforts: India has conducted hydrographic surveys in various countries, including Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and Bangladesh.
  • International Cooperation: The National Hydrographic Office highlights the potential for international cooperation in hydrography, especially in regions with limited capabilities.

Reasons behind Maldives’ Decision   

  • Regime Change: The election of Mohamed Muizzu of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), seen as more pro-China, contrasts with his predecessor President Solih’s India-friendly stance.
  • Geopolitical Dynamics: China’s increasing influence in the Indian Ocean region, particularly through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), has impacted India’s traditional sphere of influence in the Maldives.
  • ‘India Out’ Campaign: Allegations of Indian military presence and the new administration’s emphasis on national security and self-reliance in hydrographic capabilities have influenced this decision.

Possible outcomes

  • Changing Geopolitical Landscape: The Maldives’ decision reflects the shifting geopolitical dynamics in the Indian Ocean, with growing Chinese influence challenging India’s traditional role.
  • Impact on India-Maldives Relations: This development could signify a recalibration of the Maldives’ foreign policy, potentially impacting India’s strategic interests in the region.

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