Foreign Policy Watch: India-Maldives

[op-ed snap] Back on track: On India-Maldives ties

Note4students

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.


NEWS

CONTEXT

India and the Maldives appeared to return to the old days of strategic bonhomie when External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj met her counterpart Abdulla Shahid in Male during a brief visit this week.

The significanctimprovement in relationship

  • It is the first full-fledged bilateral visit at the political level from India to the Maldives after the new government assumed office.
  • Mr. Solih’s inauguration, which was marked by the attendance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was assumed to be a potential inflection point in the trajectory of bilateral ties with India.
  • The previous five years witnessed Male’s disconcerting drift, under the aegis of the Abdulla Yameen government, into what many Maldivians felt was the stifling embrace of China.
  • Chinese financing for infrastructure and construction projects poured in even as the functioning of the political Opposition and the judiciary was harshly curtailed.

Way forward for India

  • it would be unwise for New Delhi to take the Indian Ocean nation for granted.
  • In December, when Mr. Solih visited India, a $1.4 billion financial assistance package for the Maldives was announced.
  • While the proximity of the Indian general election may have precluded any major policy announcements from New Delhi, the two countries have agreed to exempt holders of diplomatic and official passports from visa requirements, inked an MoU on Indian grant-in-aid for “high-impact community development projects”, and other agreements on energy efficiency and renewable energy, areas critical to the agenda of Mr. Solih.
  • At a broader level, the archipelago and the larger Indian Ocean region could expect more collaborative approaches on regional maritime security issues, including counterterrorism and trans-national crimes.

Challenges

  • The massive debts the Maldives incurred, by some estimates to the tune of $3 billion, linked to infrastructure investments need to be unwound.
  • Second, the multiparty alliance must hold firm despite immense political pressures that arise from varying visions for governance.
  • Some tensions already seem to be bubbling to the top: on February 25, Mohamed Nasheed, former President and important coalition-builder in the MDP, tweeted about the country’s Supreme Court “meddling in elections — again”.
  • For genuine peace and bilateral harmony to take root in the region, building a shared vision for the future of the Maldives is the immediate task at hand.

 

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