• Sanskriti IAS - अखिल मूर्ति के निर्देशन में

On India-Maldives ties

  • 23rd April, 2022

(Mains GS 2 : India and its Neighborhood- Relations.)

Context:

  • Amid the “India Out” campaign that has been roiling the Maldives for months, its President Ibrahim Mohammed Solih on Thursday issued a decree banning protests against the country, citing a threat to national security.

Political narrative:

  • The anti-India campaign was first led by a social media activist, but former President Abdulla Yameen has become its face since his release from prison last December.
  • During his tenure in office from 2013 to 2018, Yameen gave Maldives’ foreign policy a pronounced pro-China tilt which facilitated Beijing to project its power in the Indian Ocean region and market its Belt and Road Initiative.
  • Mr. Yameen, who served two years in jail after losing power in 2018, wanted a strong political narrative to make a comeback, particularly as the country heads to its presidential election in 2023.

India First foreign policy:

  • When Mr. Yameen was in power, his government’s ultimatum to India to withdraw two of its helicopters from two atolls had triggered tensions. 
  • But relations between the two countries improved remarkably after Mr. Solih’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) came to power in 2018.
  • After taking office, the Solih government sent out clear signals that it intended to repair ties with India, which had taken a hit during the Yameen presidency and his government also declared an India First foreign policy.

Historical relations:

  • India has historically played an important role in the Maldives as a friendly big neighbor but China’s rise in the Indian Ocean region has raised the strategic profile of this small, import-dependent island-nation of 5,50,000 people, where both countries vied for influence.
  • In the past four years, India has emerged as the Maldives’s main security and economic partner, committing $1.4 billion towards its ‘socio-economic development needs’. 
  • In February 2021, it signed the Uthuru Thila Falhu (UTH) harbour development deal with Male to develop the National Defence Force Coast Guard Harbour.

Conclusion:

  • The challenge before India is to build closer ties with all political factions of the Maldives while helping the country meet its economic and security requirements.
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