Foreign Policy Watch: India-Maldives

India-Maldives relations


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- India-Maldives relation

The Soleh government’s ‘India First Policy’ provides respite to India when contrasted with the approach of the predecessors.

India-Maldives relations

  • India and the Maldives have had bilateral relations for centuries.
  • Maldivian students attend educational institutions in India.
  • Patients from the Maldives come here for super speciality healthcare.
  •  A liberal visa-free regime extended by India has aided the patients.
  • The Maldives 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.

Assistance to the Maldives

  • In 1988, under Operation Cactus when a coup was attempted against President, India sent paratroopers and Navy vessels and restored the legitimate leadership.
  • The 2004 tsunami and the drinking water crisis in Male a decade later were other occasions when India rushed assistance.
  • In COVID-19 disruption, India rushed $250 million aid in quick time and 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.

Strategic comfort to India

  • Abdulla Yameen was President when the water crisis occurred.
  • Now, the Yameen camp has launched an ‘India Out’ campaign against New Delhi’s massive developmental funding.
  • Maldivian protesters recently demanded the Solih administration to ‘stop selling national assets to foreigners’, implying India.
  • Mr. Yameen’s tilt towards China and bias against India when in power was evident.
  • It is against this background that the Solih administration’s no-nonsense approach towards trilateral equations provide ‘strategic comfort’ to India.

Concerns for India

  • India should be concerned about the protests as well as the occasional protest within the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) of Mr. Solih.
  • There are apparent strains between Mohamed Nasheed, who was the nation’s first President elected under a multiparty democracy and Mr. Yameen.
  • This strain could affect the MDP during the run-up to the 2023 presidential polls.
  • Also, Mr. Nasheed’s on-again-off-again call for a changeover to a ‘parliamentary form of government’ can polarise the overpoliticised nation even more.


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 relations of the two countries.

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