Context- The upcoming visit of Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla to the Maldives and significance of Maldives ‘India out’ campaign.
What are the significances of India-Maldives bilateral relationships?
- India’s Neighborhood First Policy: India announced a financial assistance package of $1.4 billion for the Maldives in the form of budgetary support, currency swap agreements and concessional lines of credit to fulfill socio-economic development programmes.
- Connectivity: The two nations emphasized connectivity through the establishment of enabling infrastructure that would promote the exchange of goods and services, information, ideas, culture and people.
- Direct Cargo Ferry Service– It will be run between India and Maldives.
- Bilateral relations– Maldivian students attend educational institutions in India and patients come to India for healthcare, aided by a liberal visa-free regime extended by India.
- Air Travel Bubble between India and Maldives– Tourism is the mainstay of Maldivian economy. The travel bubble will facilitate movement of people for employment, tourism and medical emergencies.
- Maldives is the first neighboring country of India with which an air bubble is being operationalized.
- Quotas for Supply of Essential Commodities – Given the geographical limitations imposed on the Maldives, India has exempted the nation from export curbs on essential commodities.
- Financial Aid – At the peak of the continuing COVID-19 disruption, a financial aid of 250 million USD will be provided to Maldives by India.
- Operation Cactus– In 1988, in response to a request from the Maldives, India activated Operation Cactus to deploy its military and ensure regime continuity in Male.
- Disaster management– The Government of India has provided large-scale assistance to the Maldives in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and during the 2014 Male water crisis.
What is ‘India out’ campaign?
Main-ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s Parliamentary Group leader the Yameen camp has launched an ‘India Out’ campaign instigated against India-Maldives relations aims to create unrest in the country to divert attention from the many corruption allegations raised against the higher ups of the opposition.
- Maldivian protesters recently converted their demand for early release of Mr. Yameen, sentenced to five years of imprisonment in a money laundering case, pending appeal.
Concern for India-
- India should be concerned about the protests as well as the occasional rumblings within the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), apparently between President Solih and Speaker and former President Nasheed may pose serious challenge, especially after Mr. Nasheed sought the removal of certain Ministers- accusing them of corruption.
- Nasheed has also been pushing for a parliamentary system. There is concern within the government that his moves might undermine the President, who is trying to work with the coalition partners.
- The Maldives has maintained a close relationship with China, especially in financial terms, under its previous government.
India’s increasing geostrategic concerns in the shared seas, taking forward the multifaceted cooperation to the next stage quickly could also be at the focus of Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla’s visit.