The Maldives is an archipelago of 1200 Coral islands spanning roughly 115 square miles. The Maldives is Asia’s smallest Nation both by area and by population. India was among the first to recognize the Maldives after its independence in 1965 and to establish diplomatic relations with the country. India established its mission in Male in 1972.
India and Maldives share ethnic, cultural, religious, and commercial links with each other. India’s relationship with the Maldives is free of any politically contentious issues. The one time claim of Maldives to Minicoy island was resolved by the Maritime Boundary Treaty of 1976 between the two countries in which the Maldives recognized Minicoy as an integral part of India.
India’s military assistance during the 1988 coup attempt led to the development of trust and long term friendly bilateral relations with the Maldives. Indian Army’s ‘ Operation Cactus’ foiled this coup. Since 2009 India maintained a Naval presence in the Maldives at the request of the Maldivian government.
India was the first to assist the Maldives during the 2004 Tsunami as well as the water crisis in Malé in December 2014.
The location of the Maldives in the Indian Ocean makes it important from the perspective of maritime security. It is situated in a midway between the strait of Malacca and Suez Canal which are the world’s busiest trade routes and thousands of cargos pass through these trade routes. At the same time as Kerala and Lakshadweep are in close proximity to the Maldivian Islands, there are always India’s concerns about the possible use of Maldives’ territory against it. Maldive also occupies a special place India’s foreign policy priority list because of freezing cases of piracy in the Indian Ocean. The trilateral maritime security cooperation initiative was launched by India Lanka and the Maldives in October 2011 at Male during the first National Security Advisor (NSA) meeting on Maritime security. India has launched SAGAR – security and growth for all in the region for the Indian Ocean. India has also installed free coastal surveillance radar system in the Maldives and many more are in progress to boost Maritime surveillance in the Indian Ocean region
ECONOMIC AND DEVELOPMENT COOPERATION
India is a leading development and has established many of the leading Institution of Maldives including
- the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital,
- Faculty of Engineering Technology,
- Technology Adoption Programme in Education Sector in the Maldives, Construction of National Police Academy (ISLES), Addu, and
- Faculty of hospitality and tourism studies
India and Maldives signed a trade agreement in 1981 which provides for the export of essential commodities. India has trained over 1250 MNDF trainees over the past 10 years and has offered 175 training vacancies in 2019-20. Our defense cooperation also extends to the areas of Joint Exercises, Maritime Domain Awareness, gifting of hardware, infrastructure development, etc.
India is Maldives’ 4th largest trade partner after UAE, China and Singapore.
Since 1988, defence and security have been a major area of cooperation between India and Maldives. India has adopted a very flexible and accommodating approach in meeting Maldivian requirements of defence training and equipment. India provides the largest number of training opportunities for Maldivian National Defence Force (MNDF), meeting around 70% of their defence training requirements. A comprehensive Action Plan for Defence was also signed in April 2016 to consolidate defence partnership.
The Maldivian economy is heavily dependent on its tourism sector which accounts for about a quarter of GDP of Maldives and indirectly for a much larger proportion of GDP. Through tourism Maldives receives a major chunk of its forex reserve. In terms of direct employment, tourism accounts for more than a third of job opportunities for Maldivians and if the allied sectors are included, the contribution of the tourism sector in total employment (direct and indirect) would rise up to nearly 70%. In 2018, India was the 5th largest source of tourist arrivals in Maldive.
For China, Maldives is a key line in its Maritime Silk Road plan under the Belt and Road initiative. In December 2017 Maldives signed a free trade agreement with China while endorsing its Maritime Silk road Project shunned by India for its strategic implications in the Indian Ocean Maldives strategy of achieving economic progress by making use of its Geographic advantages. In 2012 relations between India and Maldives came under strain after Male terminated the agreement it entered into the GMR in 2010 for the modernization of the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport. the airport was taken over by the Maldives airports Company Limited after a legal tussle in which GMR challenged the government’s decision. Maldives government maintained the reason for the cancellation of the project was because the contract was awarded by the then-president Nasheed. India’s concerns is that China with its strategic Alliance Pakistan could use the Maldives as a strategy Chokepoint for India