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Diplomatic Turmoil in Maldives and Shifting Alliances

Context:

The Maldives is currently navigating diplomatic turmoil marked by undiplomatic remarks, military repositioning, and the termination of significant agreements, prompting concerns about its relationship with India. Additionally, the Maldives has entered into new agreements with China, adding complexity to the geopolitical dynamics in the region.

Relevance:

GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. China-Maldives Recent Agreements: Key Insights
  2. India-Maldives Relations: Key Points
  3. India-Maldives Relations: Major Challenges

China-Maldives Recent Agreements: Key Insights

  • Deepening Bilateral Ties: China and the Maldives announce an upgraded relationship to a Comprehensive Strategic Cooperative Partnership, symbolizing a strengthened connection between the two nations.
Crucial Agreements:
  • Belt and Road Initiative: Both countries commit to expediting the formulation of the Cooperation Plan on the Belt and Road Initiative, emphasizing improved connectivity and infrastructure development.
  • Tourism Collaboration: Mutual vows to fortify collaboration in the tourism sector, recognizing its pivotal role in the Maldives’ economy.
  • Disaster Resilience: Agreements include cooperation in disaster risk reduction, stressing joint efforts to address and mitigate the impact of natural disasters.
  • Blue Economy Focus: Both nations express dedication to advancing cooperation in the blue economy, emphasizing the sustainable use of ocean resources.
  • Digital Economy Boost: Efforts to enhance investments in the digital economy are underlined.
Economic Support:
  • China extends support to the Maldives by providing grant assistance, with the specific amount undisclosed. The agreements underscore the significance of China-Maldives trade, with bilateral trade reaching USD 451.29 million in 2022.

India-Maldives Relations: Key Points

Historical Foundations:
  • The diplomatic and political ties between India and the Maldives trace back to 1965, marking the end of British control over the islands.
  • India’s strategic investments post the Maldives’ democratic transition in 2008 encompass diverse sectors like politics, military, business, and civil society.
Maldives’ Significance for India:
  • Positioned south of India, the Maldives holds critical strategic value in the Indian Ocean, serving as a gateway to the Arabian Sea and beyond.
  • This positioning aids India in monitoring maritime activities, contributing to regional security.
  • Deep cultural and historical ties, dating back centuries, underscore the relationship.
  • A prosperous Maldives aligns with India’s “Neighbourhood First” policy, fostering peace and security in the Indian Ocean region.
India’s Significance for Maldives:
  • India plays a vital role as a supplier of essential goods, including rice, spices, fruits, vegetables, and medicines.
  • Contributions extend to infrastructure development through the provision of materials like cement and rock boulders.
  • India stands as the primary education provider for Maldivian students, offering scholarships to deserving candidates.
  • During crises like tsunamis and water shortages, India consistently provides aid.
  • The Covid-19 pandemic showcased India’s reliability through the supply of essential items and support.
  • A history of security assistance includes interventions during the 1988 coup attempt (Operation Cactus) and joint naval exercises for Maldives’ protection.
  • Joint Exercises: “Ekuverin,” “Dosti,” and “Ekatha.”
  • Indian tourists have become the leading source market for the Maldives, constituting 11.2% of total arrivals in 2023 (18.42 lakh visitors).

India-Maldives Relations: Major Challenges

Anti-India Campaign:
  • Recent Maldivian politics has witnessed an “India Out” campaign, portraying Indian presence as a threat to Maldivian sovereignty.
  • Central to this campaign is the demand for the withdrawal of Indian military personnel.
  • The current Maldivian President has set a deadline of March 15, 2024, for the withdrawal of Indian troops.
Tourism Diplomatic Dispute:
  • Diplomatic tensions arose from disparaging comments following the Indian Prime Minister’s promotional visit to the Lakshadweep islands.
  • The tourism scenario in the Maldives gained focus, leading to a “boycott Maldives” trend on social media as a response to the controversy.
Rising Chinese Presence:
  • China’s increasing visibility in the Maldives raises concerns, given its proximity to key shipping lanes and India.
  • The strategic importance of the Maldives for China could fuel deeper engagement, causing unease in India and triggering a potential regional geopolitical contest.

-Source: The Hindu


February 2024
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