The India-Maldives relations have been multi-dimensional and strategically important. Read here to know more about the bilateral ties.
India and Maldives share ethnic, linguistic, cultural, religious, and commercial links and enjoy close, cordial, and multi-dimensional relations.
India was among the first to recognize the Maldives after its independence in 1965 and to establish diplomatic relations with the country.
India established its mission in 1972 and resident High Commissioner in 1980. The Maldives opened a fully-fledged High Commission in New Delhi in November 2004, at that time one of its only four diplomatic missions worldwide.
India-Maldives Strategic and Bilateral Cooperation
Maldives’ proximity to the west coast of India (it is barely 70 nautical miles away from Minicoy and 300 nautical miles away from India’s West Coast), and its situation at the hub of commercial sea lanes running through the Indian Ocean (particularly the 8° N and 1 ½° N channels), and its potential to allow a third nation’s naval presence in the area imbues it with significant strategic importance to India.
The Maldives also co-sponsored the G-4 draft resolutions on UN reforms. India extended support to Maldive’s candidature for a non-permanent seat in the UN Security Council for the term 2019-20.
India’s relationship with the Maldives is free of any politically contentious issues. The one-time claim of Maldives to Minicoy Island was resolved by the Maritime Boundary Treaty of 1976 between the two countries, whereby the Maldives recognized Minicoy as an integral part of India.
- India’s prompt assistance during the 1988 coup attempt, led to the development of trust and long-term and friendly bilateral relations with the Maldives.
- The immediate withdrawal of our troops when they were no longer required assuaged fears of any Indian dominance or territorial aspirations.
- India was the first to assist the Maldives during the 2004 Tsunami as well as the water crisis in Malé in December 2014.
- Under Operation NEER, India immediately rushed bottled drinking water to Malé utilizing Air Force aircraft and Navy ships.
- When the world supply chains were blocked because of COVID-19, India continued to provide crucial commodities to the Maldives under Mission SAGAR.
These three incidents (in 1988, 2004, and 2014) established the advantages of India’s proximity and capacity to come to Maldives’ rescue in distress from any other country and are widely acknowledged by the government and people of Maldives.
Trade and economic relations
India emerged as Maldives’ 3rd largest trade partner in 2021.
Indian imports from the Maldives primarily comprise scrap metals.
Indian exports to the Maldives include a variety of engineering and industrial products like drugs and pharmaceuticals, radar apparatus, rock boulders, aggregates, cement, and agricultural produce like rice, spices, fruits, vegetables, poultry products, etc.
Tourism is the mainstay of the Maldivian economy. The country is now a major tourist destination for Indians.
Given the geographical limitations imposed on the Maldives, India has exempted the nation from export curbs on essential commodities.
- MoU on cooperation in the field of Hydrography
- MoU on cooperation in the field of Health
- MoU on the establishment of Passenger cum Cargo service by sea
- MoU for cooperation in Customs’ capacity building
- MoU between Maldives Civil Service Commission and India’s National Centre for Good Governance (NCGG)
- Technical Agreement on the exchange of White Shipping Information between Indian Navy & MNDF.
India-Maldives Security & Defence Cooperation
Since 1988, defence and security have been a major area of cooperation between India and the Maldives.
India has adopted a very flexible and accommodating approach to meeting Maldivian requirements for defence training and equipment.
- India provides the largest number of training opportunities for the Maldivian National Defence Force (MNDF), meeting around 70% of their defence training requirements.
- A comprehensive Action Plan for Defence was also signed in April 2016 to consolidate defense partnerships.
India-Maldives defence cooperation also extends to the areas of Joint Exercises, Maritime Domain Awareness, gifting of hardware, infrastructure development, etc.
Key projects in the defence sector include the Composite Training Centre (CTC) for MNDF, the Coastal Radar System (CRS), and the construction of a new Ministry of Defence Headquarters.
The major completed and ongoing development assistance projects executed by India are:
- Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital
- Maldives Institute of Technical Education (now called the Maldives Polytechnic)
- India-Maldives Faculty of Hospitality & Tourism Studies
- Technology Adoption Programme in the Education Sector in the Maldives
Recent news about India-Maldives Relations
- The Government has approved the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in the field of judicial cooperation between India and the Judicial Service Commission of Maldives.
- It is the eighth MoU signed between India and other countries in the field of Judicial Cooperation.
The social media rift between the ministers of both countries has escalated to a political level.
- Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu asked India to withdraw all its troops from the archipelago setting a deadline for March 15. The deadline was set shortly after President Muizzu returned from a state visit to China.
- The troops have been stationed in Maldives since 2010 as part of bilateral ties that involve training of Maldivian troops. According to the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF), India currently has 77 Indian soldiers and assets. There are also 12 medical personnel from the Indian armed forces.
Maldives-India bilateral relations have remained tense since Muizzu’s election in September, following his demand that Indian troops be swiftly withdrawn from the Maldives. Muizzu’s presidential campaign, “India Out”, was in contrast to the pro-India policies of most of his predecessors.
The Maldives holds strategic importance for India under the government’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy due to its location in the Indian Ocean.
Even though the India-Maldives relations saw strain during 2012-18, due to radicalization and a pro-china attitude, the relations are back on better terms again, and this is strategically very important for both nations.
India-Maldives relations are crucial for peaceful Indo-Pacific regions and maritime security.