Male reaffirms its India first policy

Prelims level : Bilateral Relation Mains level : GS - II
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Requests for a cricket stadium, renewable energy projects and a thousand additional slots for Maldivian students in Indian courses were the highlights of the discussions during External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s visit to the Maldives.

Three agreements were signed during the visit, which officials called the first “full-fledged substantive bilateral” engagement at a political level with the new government in Male.

One of the agreements is for visa exemption for diplomats and another for MoUs for development projects.

India-Maldives: Overview

Facts about Maldives:

  • • 100% literacy
  • • Decent Health-care system
  • Highest per-capita GDP in South Asia
  • Developed Tourism sector
  • It is a coral island
  • Important because of its strategic location in Indian Ocean

Recent problems in Maldives:

  • • Drug menace among youths
  • • Growing radicalization of youth •
    • A/C to one estimate- 200 Maldivian youth travelled to Syria to join IS
    • • Presents threat for India
  • • Cases of Human rights violations

Historical context of bilateral Issues:

  • • India Being the close neighbour of maldives was the first country to recognise maldives in 1965 soon after its independence from Britain.
  • GMR contract cancelation
  • President Nasheed’s ouster
  • Indian Army’s ‘Operation Cactus’ foiled a coup in Maldives that was attempted by a pro-Eelam group in 1988. India maintains a naval presence in Maldives, at the request of the Maldives, since 2009.
  • India dispatched “water aid” to the Maldivian capital of Male, after a fire destroyed the generator of its biggest water treatment plant.

Change of stance:

  • • Cancellation of PM visit
  • • Earlier strong statements against Maldives handling of Nasheed trial and government’s growing closeness with China
  • But now -> India made no comment on a ruling by the UN tribunal, Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, that Nasheed trial was “unlawful”
  • India has also refused to respond to Nasheed’s call for intervention in Maldives

Why Change in stance:

  • • Because India’s attitude was perceived as intervention in internal matters by Maldives government and new government is more China pro than India. Increased China influence will be a big strategic loss to India and hence India has decided to stay silent on Maldives internal matters.

Recent bilateral developments:

  • Defence pact: to train Maldivian defence personnel and supply critical equipment
  • CMAG: India’s support to Maldives in the CMAG (Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group)
  • Humanitarian relief: India’s prompt help to Maldives in 2014 after water crisis emerged there is well appreciated in Maldives.
  • Infrastructural development: India has made high investment in Infrastructure development in Maldives.
  • Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT): agreement for cooperation on terrorism, transnational crime and criminal matters.
  • Coastal radar system
  • MoU for cooperation in field of tourism

Significance of these developments:

  • Defence Pact is important as it will help bringing down increasing Chinese influence in Maldives.
  • India’s relations with Maldives have been at all time low since the cancellation of GMR Airport contract and Ouster of former president Mohammad Nasheed, thus recent developments will help in bringing back the relations to normal.
  • India’s stand in CMAG will help Maldives to solve its own problems and it will remove apprehensions in the minds of Maldives regarding India’s apprehensions as it has always openly supported former president.
  • Cooperation between both countries will be win-win situation for both as Maldives occupies an important place in India’s security architecture and Maldives need India’s assistance in its development and stability.

Pending Issues:

  • • Maldives had recently ratified china’s ownership to one of its island which is a cause of great concern in the Indian ocean region.
  • India being one of the biggest democratic country had kept silent on Nasheed’s issue where in her was more pro Indian.
  • High rates of Maldivian citizens recently joining ISIS is a cause of concern which can destabilize Indian security concerns.

Maldives is the smallest country of South Asia. But its significance is no less because of its crucial geostrategic location in the Indian Ocean. It sits astride on major sea lanes of communications (SLOCs). So close cooperation with Maldives is in India’s interest.

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