Talk on "India and Maldives Bilateral Relations"
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On 06 September 2021, the Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF) organised a talk on “India-Maldives-bilateral Relations”. India-Maldives relations had made progress in the last couple of years. These relations are backed by positive activity, for example, the Great Male Connectivity Project (GMCP). The discussion overall highlighted a few of the security challenges in the Maldives, such as the presence of Islamic radicalisation, China’s inroads in the country and others. The discussion was held under the Chatham House Rules.

Maldives, one of the neighbouring countries, does not share any land border with India and is also one of the smallest of all our neighbours (around 300 square kilometres). Historically, India and Maldives had no contentious issues, apart from the border issues, which was resolved with the treaty in 1976. It is strategically located at the heart of the Indian Ocean as 80 per cent of oil and gas pass through the eight degrees and nine and half degrees channel.

The talk focussed on the journey of India Maldives relations, and how they have developed economically, politically and strategically. India started engaging actively since the Indian Prime Minister Modi visit as the serving head of state at Maldivian President Solih’s inauguration. This was followed by the visit of President Solih to India in December 2018. Furthermore, India announced an economic package of about one billion dollars, and started capacity building programmes. The good news here is that India delivered on its promises. For example, India provided training to the Maldivian delegation of customs personnel, parliamentarians, and civil servants.

India has also initiated projects on sports infrastructure, expanding airports, building cancer hospital, open-air gyms, speed boats to connect two islands, LED lighting assistance, etc. As a result, the visibility of Indian projects has increased in the Maldivian citizens’ minds. Maldives two major sectors of economy - tourism and fisheries sector has also received support from India. To promote connectivity, India launched the Cargo Ferry Vessel MCP Linz operated by the Shipping Corporation of India (SCI) connecting Tuticorin and Cochin ports in India with Kulhudhufushi and Male ports in the Maldives.

The discussion also focussed on the development of development of strong defence ties. India has a coastal radar system (CRS) with ten islands of the country. And the data from these radars will be directed towards the Indian Fusion Center in Gurgaon, where Maldivian National Defence Forces représentative is present. The two countries also engage in maritime exercises. India also provides ammunition, bulletproof vests and other things. Even during times of COVID-19 crises, Maldives was the first recipient of India’s vaccines. Within 48 hours of initiation of India’s vaccination programme, India delivered vaccines to Maldives in a total of 300 thousand vaccines.

The discussion raised important issues that both countries need to consider. For example, maintenance of CRS despite issues of salient, maritime issues, transportation of distillates fuel oil or even crude or product from India into Maldives, Ro-Ro service, climate change and others. The discussion also focussed on the importance of the Indo-Pacific and the increasing Chinese presence in the region. Maldives is an important country and needs continued funding. In terms of developing maritime domain awareness, Maldives holds significance for India. Therefore, efforts must be made for continuous development of the economic and strategic relations.

Event Date 
September 6, 2021

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