Modi visit and Summary of India Maldives Relations
Indian Foreign Secretary Mr Vijay Gokhale summarized the progress of India Maldives relations during a press briefing on Prime Minister’s visit to Maldives on June 06, 2019. The Prime Minister’s visit is essentially focused on three objectives. Firstly, it is to maintain contacts at the highest level between close neighbors. Secondly, to assist the Maldives as a development partner in the revival and development of their economy and thirdly is to strengthen the people to people relations with the Maldives.
Some of the key facets include:-
A visa facilitation agreement which has come into force in March which is important because it addresses a number of issues which the government of Maldives had in terms of visas particularly for their students and for those who come for their medical treatments and from Indian perspectives has given a number of benefits particularly for Indian businessmen traveling to the Maldives.
India has pledged budgetary support to the Government of the Maldives of close to US$200 million. US$50 million has been given as a cash support for budgetary purposes and the rest of it will be in terms of Treasury Bills, an ongoing process, as and when their Central Bank issues these treasury bills.
India is in the process of finalizing the currency swap agreement which is under SAARC. They have requested for an enhancement of the amount as well as extension of the roll over period and that is close to finalization.
Prime Minister and President jointly inaugurated two projects remotely.
One is the Coastal Surveillance Radar System and the other is the Composite Training Center of the Maldives National Defence Forces.
These are two important projects, total value is approximately Rs. 180 crores which were be remotely inaugurated by the two leaders. This has increased the level of cooperation between the two countries in the field of defense and security.
The Coastal Surveillance Radar System is a system shared with a number of other countries in the region as well. The idea is to monitor white shipping and to help that country to preserve its sovereignty in its EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) and this is in addition to Maldives a number of other nations have also been given the coastal surveillance radar system.
MoU for Cooperation in the Field of Hydrography between Indian Navy and Maldives National Defence Force and Technical Agreement on Sharing White Shipping Information between the Indian Navy and the Maldives National Defence Force was signed during visit of the Prime Minister.
As far as terrorism is concerned, government of India is ready to assist any country in whatever manner we can to combat terrorism. This is a common scourge and India is ready to help develop capacity, share information, share intelligence, there are certain mechanism that exist.
India has offered the Maldives a Line of Credit of about US$800 million.
Three important projects have already been identified and the project report preparation is underway.
One is water supply and sewerage for 36 of the islands which are inhabited. Another one is the Addu urban development center. Addu is an important town in the southern part of the Maldives chain and the third project is an SME development financing project. So these three projects, have already received the initial proposal and India is preparing a project report. Of India has started the work on high impact community development projects. India supports this initiative by giving a grant of Rs. 50 crore. 14 projects have now been identified in various areas including connectivity between islands, drug rehabilitation centers and so on and so forth.
India has already begun the process of disbursing of 1000 ITEC scholarships that will be given to Maldives over the next five years.
One of the focus areas is the P2P relations areas, strengthening people to people relationship. In April India invited President Solih who is a very keen cricketer to come and watch the IPL match in Bengaluru and subsequent to that he had expressed an interest in developing a cricket team in the Maldives and seeking India’s assistance in training this team and bringing them up to the requisite standards.
So among his requests which are under positive consideration our cricket stadium is to build under the Line of Credit that India will give and is also working with the BCCI. A team from the BCCI had earlier visited the Maldives in May for training of Maldivian cricketers, coaching programs, supply of kits and so on. In addition to that India is looking at upgradation of important cultural sites and a team from the Archaeological Survey of India led by the Culture Secretary had also visited the Maldives, that report is under submission and we expect that there will be a number of projects there.
India supported the Climate Change initiative of the Maldives by gifting 2 lakh LED lights for the street lighting of Male city.
India Maldives relations have seen an uptick with the return of the Maldives Democratic Party to power in the Presidency as well as the parliament.
This has given a fillip to the defense and security relations as well. There is already an existing action Plan between India and Maldives for Defence Cooperation as this is regarded as an important component of the India-Maldives bilateral relationship and the shared strategic and security interests of the two countries in the Indian Ocean region.
However the Action Plan was not put in place due to resistance by the government under President Abdullah Yameen who had shown an open preference for China. This had also resulted in Maldives asking India to take back an Indian Navy Advanced Light Helicopter MK III which was deployed at Maldives on 27 Apr 16.
The helicopter was based at Kadhdhoo Island in Laamu Atol of Maldives to assist MNDF for undertaking Search And Rescue, Casualty Evacuation, Coastal Surveillance, Maritime Reconnaissance, Communication and Logistic Duties.