4 MARCH 2016
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GS II: BILATERAL – INDIA-MALDIVES
1. Discuss the significant dimensions of India-Maldives relations. Have the recent changes in governments proved favourable or unfavourable for India? Elucidate.
As close and friendly neighbours, India and Maldives share ethnic, linguistic, cultural, religious and commercial links steeped in antiquity and enjoy cordial and multi-dimensional relations. India was among the first to recognise Maldives after its independence in 1965 and to establish diplomatic relations with the country. India established its mission at Malé in 1972.
· Bilateral relations have been nurtured and strengthened by regular contacts at all levels.
· Former President Mohamed Nasheed made a number of visits to India during their Presidencies.
· President Abdulla Yameen visited India with a high level delegation on a State visit from January 1-4, 2014, which was his first official visit abroad.
· India and Maldives have consistently supported each other in multilateral fora such as the UN, the Commonwealth, the NAM and the SAARC.
· India is a leading development partner of Maldives and has established many of the leading institutions of Maldives including the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH), Faculty of Engineering Technology (FET) and Faculty of Hospitality & Tourism Studies (IMFFHTS).
· After the tsunami that struck Maldives on December 26, 2004, India was the first country to rush relief and aid to Maldives. India provided a budget support aid of Rs.10 crores
· Currently, India has provided US $ 100 million Stand-by Credit facility (SCF) to Maldives, including long-term loans and revolving credit for trade.
· Under new Line of Credit worth US$40 million offered by the Government of India to Maldives, the Overseas Infrastructure Alliance (OIA) of India has been given a contract to construct 485 housing units in Maldives.
Capacity Building and Training
· Capacity building and skills development is one of the key components of India’s assistance to Maldives. India offers several scholarships to Maldivian students
· Several Maldivian diplomats have received training in India under the Indian Foreign Service Institute’s Professional Course for Foreign Diplomats (PCFD) program.
· India has provided extensive economic aid and has participated in bilateral programs for the development of infrastructure, health, civil aviation, telecommunications and labour resources.
· India and Maldives signed a trade agreement in 1981, which provides for export of essential commodities.
· Indian exports to the Maldives include agriculture and poultry produce, sugar, fruits, vegetables, spices, rice, wheat flour (Atta), textiles, drugs and medicines, a variety of engineering and industrial products, sand and aggregate, cement for building etc.
· Indian imports primarily scrap metals from the Maldives.
· Under the bilateral agreement, India provides essential food items like rice, wheat flour, sugar, dal, onion, potato and eggs and construction material such as sand and stone aggregates to Maldives on favourable terms.
· Commercial projects that are currently being undertaken by Indian companies in Maldives are as follows:
§ Construction of 1000 low-cost housing units in Malé by TATA Housing Development Co. Ltd
§ Construction of a resort by Residency Group in Dhaalu atoll
• The proximity of location and improvements in air connectivity in recent years has led to a very substantial increase in the number of Indians visiting Maldives for tourism (around 33,000) and business.
• India is a preferred destination for Maldivian for education, medical treatment, recreation and business.
• Indians are the second largest expatriate community in the Maldives
• Indian expatriate community consists of workers as well as professionals like doctors, teachers, accountants, managers, engineers, nurses and technicians etc. spread over several islands.
· In November 1988 speedboats carrying 80 armed militants of the People's Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam landed in Maldives and along with allies who had infiltrated the country, began taking over the government. The plot, planned in Sri Lanka by the Tamil nationalist group was believed to be an attempt by a Maldivian businessman and politician opposed to the regime of the President of Maldives Maumoon Abdul Gayoom to gain control while the PLOTE sought a safe haven and base for its activities.
· The militants took control of the airport in Male, the national capital, but failed to capture the President of Maldives Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who had fled and asked for military aid from India on 3 November.
· The then-Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi ordered 1,600 troops to aid the Maldivian government. In a military operation codenamed "Operation Cactus," Indian forces arrived within 12 hours of the request for aid being made, squashed the coup attempt and achieved full control of the country within hours. 19 PLOTE militants were killed and 1 Indian soldier wounded.
· India's intervention was endorsed by other nations such as the United States, Soviet Union, Great Britain and its neighbours Nepal and Bangladesh.
· President Reagan called India’s action, a valuable contribution to regional stability’. Margaret Thatcher reportedly commented: ‘Thank God for India: President Gayoom’s government has been saved. We could not have assembled and dispatched a force from here in good time to help him’.
· Its speedy and decisive victory and the restoration of the Maldivian government brought both nations even closer in friendship and cooperation.
· India started the process to bring the island country into India's security grid.
· The move comes after the moderate Islamic nation approached New Delhi earlier in 2009, over fears that one of its island resorts could be taken over by terrorists given its lack of military assets and surveillance capabilities.
· India has also signed an agreement which include:
§ India will permanently base two helicopters in the country to enhance its surveillance capabilities and ability to respond swiftly to threats.
§ Maldives has coastal radars on only two of its 26 atolls. India will help set up radars on all 26 for seamless coverage of approaching vessels and aircraft.
§ The coastal radar chain in Maldives will be networked with the Indian coastal radar system. India has already undertaken a project to install radars along its entire coastline. The radar chains of the two countries will be interlinked and a central control room in India's Coastal Command will get a seamless radar picture.
§ The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) will carry out regular Dornier sorties over the island nation to look out for suspicious movements or vessels. The Southern Naval Command will overlook the inclusion of Maldives into the Indian security grid.
§ Military teams from Maldives will visit the tri-services Andaman Nicobar Command (ANC) to observe how India manages security and surveillance of the critical island chain.
India-first foreign policy of Maldives:
Former President Nasheed believed in this policy. For Maldives it means:
§ not to have defence exercises with other countries,
§ not to conduct our domestic policy in a way that creates fear in India,
§ not to give a base to the Chinese, or indeed anyone to create strategic infrastructure, like deep- water ports and airports.
Aftermath of GMR - Maldives Airport Row
• Bilateral relations between the two countries hit an all-time low after the GMR row.
• In June 2010, the Maldives government, the Maldives Airports Company Limited (MACL) and GMR-MAHB Consortium signed a tripartite concession agreement to develop and run the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport at Malé, the capital of the island nation.
• The process of privatisation of the Malé International Airport was conceptualised and implemented with MACL, being a 100% owned company of the government of Maldives, assuming the role of Grantor while the government remains as the Guarantor.
• The Maldives government in 2009 asked the International Financial Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of World Bank, to manage the bid process for privatisation of the airport to ensure fairness. IFC ran the bidding process in 10 months. GMR-MAHB Consortium was finally chosen,
• However, after the contract was signed, the Maldives government changed. President Nasheed was replaced by President Waheed in a coup. This government claimed the contract was invalid. The airport is very significant for the nation, as out of its $2 billion annual GDP, about a fifth is made up of revenues that are connected to the airport.
• The cancellation of the GMR airport contract, the largest single Indian investment in the island nation, soured relations
• Indian government froze its US$25 million aid to the island nation. Construction of a National Police Academy in Maldives has also been put on the back burner besides other infrastructure commitments that India had made to Maldives earlier.
• Also, New Delhi's anguish is said to be due to the anti-India sentiments being aired by some parties in President's coalition.
Drinking-water crisis in Male
• In the wake of a drinking water crisis in Male on 4 December 2014, following collapse of the island's only water treatment plant, Maldives urged India for immediate help.
• India came to rescue by sending its heavy lift transporters like C-17 Globemaster III, Il-76 carrying bottled water.
• The navy also sent her ships like INS Sukanya, INS Deepak and others which can produce fresh water using their onboard desalination plants.
• The humanitarian relief efforts by the Indian side was widely appreciated in Male across all sections of people.
2015 arrest of ex-President Nasheed
• Maldives' first democratically elected President from 2008 to 2012 Mohammed Nasheed, was arrested on 22 February 2015 on terror charges.
• India and US expressed concern over Nasheed's arrest and manhandling.
• Mr. Nasheed has been sentenced to 13 years in prison on terrorism charges. He’s now in London on a prison leave for medical treatment. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention had recently ruled that Mr. Nasheed’s trial was flawed, and called for his release, a call that President Abdulla Yameen has refused to accept.