EAM on a visit to Maldives to review bilateral engagement
- The visit is part of India’s continuing high-level engagement with the Maldives government in areas including maritime security, development cooperation and financial assistance during the pandemic.
- He will also launch key India-backed projects in the Indian Ocean archipelago.
Economic cooperation b/w India-Maldives
- Both signed a trade agreement in 1981
- Bilateral trade : US$ 290.27 mn with trade balance for India.
- India is Maldives’ 4th largest trade partner after UAE, China and Singapore.
- Indian imports from Maldives : worth 3.42 mn US $ mainly consist of scrap metals
- Indian exports: worth 290.27 mn US $ includes variety of engineering and industrial products like drugs and medicines, radar apparatus, rock boulders, aggregates, cement and agriculture produce like rice, spices, fruits, vegetables and poultry produce etc.
- Both countries have signed Instrument of Ratification for the Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters
- Investment by SBI: it has been playing a vital role in the economic development of Maldives since February, 1974 by providing loan assistance for promotion of island resorts, export of marine products and business enterprises.
- SBI's COVID-relief: SBI has provided liquidity support of USD 16.20 million for local businesses and deferred loan repayment for over 200 retail accounts.
- India has gifted Patrol Vessel named ""KAAMIYAAB” to Maldives National Defence Force.
- India provides the largest number of training opportunities for MNDF.
- Key projects: Composite Training Centre for MNDF, Coastal Radar Surveillance System and construction of new Ministry of Defence
- Two indigenously designed and developed advanced Light Helicopters (ALH) are also given by India to Maldivian armed forces.
- US $500 million assistance for Greater Male Connectivity project (GMCP) to connect Male to three neighbouring islands
- Major completed development assistance: Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital, Maldives Institute of Technical Education, Construction of National Police Academy etc.
- Grants for projects under High Impact Community Development Projects (HICDPs): include projects such as ambulances, Convention Centre, drug rehabilitation centre, police station up-gradation, development of Addu Tourism zone etc.
- Direct cargo ferry service b/w India and Maldives,
- Creation of an Air Travel Bubble b/w India and Maldives,
- Renewal of quotas for supply of essential commodities to Maldives for 2020‐21
- Extension of financial assistance to Maldives to help them deal with the devastating impact of Covid‐19 on their economy.
- Maldivian economy is heavily dependent on its tourism sector, accounting for ~ quarter of GDP.
- In 2018, India was the 5th largest source of tourist arrivals in Maldives (6.1%).
- Medical tourism: India provides treatment and health services at a nominal cost.
- It is one of the most accessible countries to be approached for medication.
- Chinese debt trap diplomacy: Maldives’ reliance on China to develop > US$2.5 billion in infrastructure projects - accumulation of foreign debt 40% of country’s GDP.
- Signing FTA with China ignoring India: Maldives also endorsed its Maritime Silk Road project shunned by India for its strategic implications in IOR.
- Political instability: Maldives as democracy is yet to take a firm footing.
- Eg: Maldives announced termination of a USD 511 million project with the Indian infrastructure company GMR Infrastructure Limited in 2012.
- Terrorism and radicalisation: Maldivians drawn towards terrorist groups like Islamic State (IS) and jihadist groups - increasing possibility to use Maldivian islands as a launchpad for terror attacks against India cannot be rejected.
- Concerns of workers: Maldives denied work permits to ~2000 Indians working there in 2018 and job advertisements mentioning ‘Indians need not apply’, denied visas.
- To become a Net-security provider in IOR, India needs close military, naval ties with Maldives.
- There is a need to enhance regional cooperation by using platforms like Indian Ocean RIM Association and Indian Ocean Naval Symposium.
- ‘India-First Policy’ of Maldives and India’s ‘Neighbourhood First Policy’ are intuitively complementary, implementing them with strategic sensitivity is of utmost importance.
- India needs to adhere to Gujral doctrine to guide conduct of foreign relations with India’s immediate neighbours.