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MALDIVES ROW

WHY IN NEWS?

  • Recently, India-Maldives row started after Prime Minister Modi’s visited to Lakshadweep.

MORE ABOUT THE NEWS:

  • Few Maldivian politicians reacted negatively to PM Modi’s visit and followed Lakshadweep’s promotion.
  • The social media conflict also strained the previously friendly ties between India and Maldives, their strategic security interests and close cultural links.
  • As tourism rivalry played a role in conflict, the incident cannot be seperated from the broader geopolitical context.
  • The Maldives’ recent tilt towards China could be a contributing factor to the underlying tension.

ABOUT INDIA-MALDIVES RELATIONS:

  • Both nations share ethnic, linguistic, cultural, religious and commercial links steeped in antiquity.
  • The relations between the two countries have been close, cordial and multi-dimensional.
  • India was among the first to recognize Maldives after its independence in 1965 and thereafter establishing diplomatic relations with the country.
  • With India being seen as a net security provider, importance of India’s strategic role is well-recognized in Maldives.
  • Maldives occupies a special place under India’s “Neighbourhood First” Foreign Policy, which aims to bring stability and prosperity in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
  • Both the nations are key players in maintaining safety and security of the IOR, thus contributing to India-led Security And Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR) vision.
  • India was the first country to assist Maldives during the 2004 Tsunami as well as the water crisis in Malé in Dec 2014.

IMPORTANCE OF MALDIVES FOR INDIA:

  • Maldives proximity to the west coast of India and its strategic location at the hub of commercial sea-lanes running through the Indian Ocean makes it of significant strategic importance to India.

  • Maldives is also one of the key elements in India’s maritime security calculus in Indo-Pacific.
  • The security scenario in India’s periphery in the Indian Ocean is very much linked to the Maldives maritime power.
  • That’s the reason India invests on Maldives’ security by training its defence forces.
  • According to estimates, almost 70 per cent of Maldives’ defence training is done by India either on the islands or in India’s elite military academies.
  • Over 1,500 Maldivian National Defence Force (MNDF) personnels got trained in India during last 10 years.
  • The Indian Navy has given aircraft and choppers to the Maldivian defence forces for aerial surveillance, and pilots are also trained on how to land vertically in the islands.
  • On the other hand, India is naturally concerned at the expanding Chinese footprint there in the Indian Ocean.
  • As Mohamed Nasheed first started the engagement with China, Abdulla Yameen took it up to new heights during his term from 2013-2018.

IMPORTANCE OF INDIA FOR MALDIVES:

  • India supplies Maldives with its everyday essentials from rice, spices, fruits, vegetables, poultry basically every possible edible item in the country.
  • India is Maldives second largest trade partner in 2022.
  • India also supplies medicines and all critical care and life-saving drugs.
  • India supplies basic items to build infrastructure in Maldives from cement, rock boulders, and basically anything one needs to build a house or a bridge or a school or a hospital.
  • One of the major multi-speciality hospitals in Maldives has been built by India, the 300-bed Indira Gandhi Memorial hospital.
  • As the country has a small population base and the islands are isolated and spread out, there are no major educational institutions, India has been the education provider for Maldivians.
  • Maldives is dependent on India for most of the items, hence India is among its top trading partners.
  • Of the Rs 50 crore worth trade between India and Maldives in 2022, Rs 49 crore was India’s exports to Maldives.
  • India also responded in past emergencies like coups.
  • India sent in troops to fight the combatants, when there was a coup attempt in 1988 against then President Abdul Gayoom.
  • On the security front, Indian Navy and the Maldivian Navy conduct joint exercises regularly and India playing the role of net security provider, its assets are always in readiness in the vicinity to protect the island nation.

WAY FORWARD:

  • India’s regional and geopolitical relevance will continue to keep relations with New Delhi among Male’s high-priority affairs regardless of the changing domestic realities in Male,
  • As the democracies function in the contemporary scenario, any state’s sovereignty lies in its population, making favourable popular perceptions central to any diplomatic pursuits.

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