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Maldives signs largest-ever infrastructure project with AFCONS

Context:

The contract for the largest-ever infrastructure project – The Greater Male Connectivity Project (GMCP) – in the Maldives was signed recently involving AFCONS Infrastructure Ltd. 

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (India’s Neighbours, India’s Foreign Policies), Prelims

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the Greater Malé Connectivity Project
  2. India–Maldives relations

About the Greater Malé Connectivity Project

  • The Greater Malé Connectivity Project is the largest-ever Infrastructure project by India in the Maldives, which involves construction of a 6+ Km bridge and causeway link.
  • The seeds of the project were planted during the External Affairs Minister’s visit to Malé in September 2019.
  • The GMCP is not only the biggest project India is doing in the Maldives but also the biggest infrastructure project in the Maldives overall.
  • This project is significant because it facilitates inter-island connectivity in the country
  • Transport is a major challenge for residents who have to take boats or seaplanes to distant islands.
  • It becomes even more difficult during the monsoons when the seas are rough.
  • This bridge that would connect Malé with the three neighboring islands would ease the process.

Why are these Islands picked?

  • On the island of Gulhifalhu, a port , is at present being built under the Indian line of credit.
  • Located some 6 kilometers from Malé, since 2016, the island has been promoted as a strategic location for manufacturing, warehousing and distribution facilities due to its proximity to the capital city.
  • Located 7 km from the capital, the artificial island of Thilafushi was created and designated as a landfill in the early 1990s, to receive garbage created mostly in Malé.
  • The Maldives has plans of expanding industrial work on Thilafushi, making this bridge’s connectivity to the capital indispensable for the transport of employees and other services.

India–Maldives relations

  • India and Maldives are neighbors sharing a maritime border and relations between the two countries have been friendly and close in strategic, economic and military cooperation.
  • Maldives is located south of India’s Lakshadweep Islands in the Indian Ocean.
  • Both nations established diplomatic relations after the independence of Maldives from British rule in 1966.
  • India has supported Maldives’ policy of keeping regional issues and struggles away from itself, and the latter has seen friendship with India as a source of aid as well as a counterbalance to Sri Lanka, which is in proximity to the island nation and its largest trading partner.

Cooperation Between India & Maldives

  • Through the decades, India has rushed emergency assistance to the Maldives, whenever sought.
  • In 1988, when armed mercenaries attempted a coup against President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, India sent paratroopers and Navy vessels and restored the legitimate leadership under Operation Cactus.
  • Further, joint naval exercises have been conducted in the Indian ocean and India still contributes to the security of the maritime island.
  • The 2004 tsunami and the drinking water crisis in Male a decade later were other occasions when India rushed assistance.
  • At the peak of the continuing COVID-19 disruption, the Maldives has been the biggest beneficiary of the Covid-19 assistance given by India among its all of India’s neighbouring countries.
  • When the world supply chains were blocked because of the pandemic, India continued to provide crucial commodities to the Maldives under Mission SAGAR.
  • Recently, in 2021, India extended its support to the Maldives’ Foreign Minister at the election for the President of the General Assembly (PGA) in the United Nations.

Irritants in India – Maldives relations

  • In the past decade or so, the number of Maldivians drawn towards terrorist groups like the Islamic State (IS) and Pakistan-based madrassas and jihadist groups has been increasing. Political instability and socio-economic uncertainty are the main drivers fuelling the rise of Islamist radicalism in the island nation.
  • China’s strategic footprint in Maldives and the rest of India’s neighbourhood has increased. The Maldives has emerged as an important ‘pearl’ in China’s “String of Pearls” construct in South Asia.
  • One of India’s major concerns has been the impact of political instability in the neighbourhood on its security and development. The February 2015 arrest of opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed on terrorism charges and the consequent political crisis have posed a real diplomatic test for India’s neighbourhood policy.

-Source: The Hindu

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October 2022
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