Accompanied by a high level official and business delegation, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih of Maldives is arriving in the first week of August. During his four day visit to India at the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the two leaders will review the progress made in wide ranging partnership between the two neighbours and lend further momentum to it. In New Delhi the visiting leader will be meeting with the new President of India Droupadi Murmu and later have discussions with the Indian business delegation. In the second half of his visit, the President of Maldives will also visit Mumbai, to participate in business events.
Importance of Maldives for India
There has been a rapid growth in the bilateral relations with Maldives in recent years in all areas of cooperation. It is a key neighbor of India in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), therefore the focus during talks is also going to enhance maritime security between the two sides.
On Thursday, Chief of Defence Force of Maldives National Defence Force Major General Abdulla Shamaal was in India and he had a meeting with Admiral R Hari Kumar, Chief of the Indian Navy. The two sides during discussions reviewed the progress on the ongoing engagements in the maritime domain. The Indian Navy expressed commitment to the vision of SAGAR.
When President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih assumed power in 2018, there was a fresh momentum to resume the trilateral maritime dialogue. In 2021, 12 Indian Ocean Littorals came together for the 3rd edition of Goa Maritime Conclave (GMC) – 2021 and talked about strategies to deal with the growing security challenges in the IOR.
In fact in 2020 NSA Level Trilateral Meeting on Maritime Security Cooperation between India, Maldives and Sri Lanka were resumed after a gap of almost six year.
Maldives and other littoral navies including Madagascar, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bangladesh, Comoros, Indonesia, Mauritius, Myanmar, Seychelles, and Singapore were represented by their Chiefs of Navies/Heads of Maritime Forces.
India & Maldives
In December of 2018, President Solih had visited India, which was also his first foreign visit abroad after assuming office earlier that year. It was during that visit India had announced a financial assistance package of USD1.4 billion and also offered additional 1000 scholarships over the next 5 years.
After his re-election Prime Minister Modi chose the Maldives as his first foreign destination in 2019.
The focus according to officials will be connectivity, maritime security, trade, economic and tourism cooperation.
There have been increased engagements between the two countries and this includes a high-level visit of External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar to the country and a visit of Maldives Foreign minister Abdulla Shahid to Delhi.
And as has been reported earlier by Financial Express Online, the developmental partnership has been a key pillar of the ties with Maldives. Under Indian grant assistance of MVR 260 million, so far out of 45 projects 17 have been completed and also implemented across the country.
These projects include areas of socio-economic development like healthcare, tourism, sustainable development, education and fisheries.
India has been extending full cooperation in connectivity in the Greater male Connectivity Project, which is the largest project in that country. And for this India has extended Line of Credit of USD 400 million and also a grant of USD 100 million. Once the project is completed, through bridges, causeways and roads, national capital Male will be connected with Villingili, Gulhifalhu and Thilafushi islands.
Global Pandemic COVID-19
India was the first country to lend a helping hand to Maldives when under Operation Sanjeevani; an Indian Air Force plane had airlifted around 6.2 tonnes of essential medical supplies to the Maldives in April 2020. And prior to that a 14-member Rapid Response Medical team was deployed in March 2020 to help train the Maldivian authorities and personnel in the fight against the global pandemic of COVID-19. It was also one of the first countries to get vaccines for its population.