Foreign Policy Watch: India-Maldives

[op-ed snap] Island hopping


Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional & global groupings & agreements involving India &/or affecting India’s interests

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: SAGAR strategy

Mains level: Reclaiming ties with India’s neighborhood in light of China’s increasing interference


Relations improving with the Maldives

  1. In India a month after assuming his new responsibility, the President of the Maldives, Mr. Solih has assured New Delhi that the Maldives is pivoting to the ‘India First’ policy
  2. The five-year-long tenure of his predecessor, Abdulla Yameen, was marked by a serious deterioration in ties with India, as Mr. Yameen steadily took his nation towards authoritarianism and into a close embrace with China
  3. Mr. Solih’s government has adopted a different vision — one anchored in decentralised and people-centric governance
  4. India seems to enjoy a special place in his worldview

Balancing concerns 

  1. The joint statement issued during Mr. Solih’s visit reflects a fine balance between the interests of both countries
  2. To help the Maldives address its budget deficit and development challenges, India has worked out a generous $1.4 billion assistance package
  3. Besides, India has offered visa facilitation that will allow Maldivians to visit India easily (with reciprocal facilities for Indian visitors to the Maldives)
  4. 1,000 “additional” training slots for the next five years
  5. Close cooperation on political and diplomatic issues and support to the Maldives as it seeks to rejoin the Commonwealth and its entry into the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA)
  6. The visit resulted in the conclusion of four agreements relating to cooperation for information technology, culture, agri-business, and visa arrangements

Equations changing in the neighbourhood

  1. The deliberations in Delhi took place as China’s footprint in South Asia has increased in recent years
  2. There is a growing realisation that owing to Beijing’s strategic objectives, economic capability and assertive diplomacy, it is not feasible for India to supplant China in neighbouring countries
  3. But India has its own advantages, assets and friends
  4. The intention is to leverage them fully, deriving benefit from the neighbours’ essential thirst for maintaining balance in their external relations
  5. The change in the Maldives has been followed by a re-assertion of democratic impulses in Sri Lanka, as symbolised by the return of Ranil Wickremesinghe as the Prime Minister
  6. India enjoys close relations with Mauritius and Seychelles
  7. A new grouping of India, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Mauritius and Seychelles, focussed on maritime security and economic development, looks attainable in the short term

Way forward

  1. In devising a smart action plan to implement the SAGAR, or Security and Growth for All in the Region, strategy, that was announced by Mr. Modi in March 2015, New Delhi should accord equal importance to its two key goals: address its neighbours’ concerns on security challenges; and harness enticing opportunities for the Blue Economy
  2. Even others such as South Africa, whose President is due to visit India in January next year, and Kenya, much enthused from having hosted recently the first global conference on the sustainable Blue Economy, may be happy to join
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