Jaishankar meets visiting Maldives President: Neighborhood first
- Recently, Maldives President visited to India
Significance of Maldives:
- Geostrategic Location: Maldives’ proximity to the west coast of India (barely 70 nautical miles away from Minicoy and 300 nautical miles away from India’s West coast), and
- Geo-economics and Geopolitical importance for India:
- As Sea lanes of communication (SLOCs) in the close proximity of the Maldives which have immense significance for global maritime trade and for India since nearly 50% of India’s external trade and 80% of her energy imports transit these westward SLOCs in the Arabian Sea
- Soft Diplomacy of Health: India’s swift dispatched the 30,000 doses of measles vaccine in Jan 2020 and India’s rapid and comprehensive assistance to the Maldives during COVID‐19 pandemic has further reinforced India’s credentials of being the first responder.
Recent areas of concern:
- “India Out” campaign was initiated by vested interested groups in Maldives against presence of large numbers of Indian military personnel in the Maldives and asserts that the government is planning to hand over the Uthuru Thilafalhu atoll to the Indian Navy. •
- It has highlighted the difficulties that both countries face in building a stable strategic partnership while also addressing popular sensitivities.
- However, The Maldives government responded sharply by describing India as the country’s “closest ally and trusted neighbour”.
- Growing Chinese influence: China is actively establishing its presence in this strategically positioned island-state by involving itself in large number of infrastructure projects in the archipelago which is a major concern for India
Recent Ares of exchange between two nations:
- Bilateral Economic and Trade Relations: India‐Maldives bilateral trade crossed the $ 300M mark for the first time in 2021, reaching an impressive $323.29M
- Economic package of US$ 1.4 billion: In order to strengthen the bilateral relation between Maldivian government and enhancing the people-people connect , Indian government has taken certain initiatives such as
- Currency Swap
- Water and Sanitation Projects
- Cancer Hospital
- Hulhumalé Cricket Stadium
- Capacity Building/Training : India provides the largest number of training opportunities for Maldivian National Defence Force (MNDF), meeting around 70% of their defence training requirements.
- Security & Defence Cooperation: Since 1988, defence and security has been a major area of cooperation between India and Maldives.
- Key projects (Defence): Composite Training Centre, Coastal Radar System (CRS) and construction of new Ministry of Defence Headquarters
- Exercise EKUVERIN: India-Maldives joint military exercise and Exercise Dosti: Maldives, India, and Sri Lanka biennial Trilateral Exercise
- Disaster Management - MNDF regularly participates in Humanitarian Assistance & Disaster Relief, Search & Rescue (SAR), Pollution Control, other exercises organized by India.
- Deepening security cooperation: Security cooperation should be furthered through various mechanisms like ‘Colombo Security Conclave’ under which India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives have agreed to work on “four pillars”, covering areas of marine security, human trafficking, counter-terrorism, and cyber security.
- The potential for both countries to work together on adaptive and mitigating measures against the adverse maritime-impacts of climate change is enormous.
Prelims Take Away
- Location based question
- India Out campaign
- Exercise EKUVERIN