Close contact and coordination between India and Maldives in defence and security is vital for the peace and stability of the entire region in the backdrop of trans-national crime, terrorism and drug trafficking in the Indian Ocean
|The Author is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army|
Maldives' President Ibrahim Solih officially visited India in August (1-4) 2022, on the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Solih was accompanied by a high-level official and business delegation. This was Solih's third visit to India since assuming office on November 17, 2018. Solih met President Droupadi Murmu, held vide ranging discussions with Modi and besides official engagements, held discussion with an Indian business delegation in Delhi. Solih also visited Mumbai, Maharashtra, and participated in business events. After wide-ranging talks between Solih and Modi, both nations signed six agreements to expand overall cooperation in multiple spheres like cyber security, housing and disaster management.
After wide-ranging talks between President Solih and Prime Minister Modi, both nations signed six agreements to expand overall cooperation in multiple spheres
Defence and Security have been a major area of cooperation between India and Maldives since 1998. In April 2016, India and Maldives agreed on a comprehensive action plan to consolidate defence partnership. India provides the largest number of training opportunities for Maldivian National Defence Force (MNDF), which is about 70 per cent of MNDF training requirements. India has trained over 1,400 MNDF trainees over the past 10 years and offered 300 training vacancies (including with SPG, NSG and MIO) during 2021-22. India helped Maldives in establishing the National College for Policing and Law Enforcement (NCPLE) at Addu City which was inaugurated in March 2022.
Maldives hosted the 5th Meeting of Colombo Security Conclave at Male' in March 2022 during which, Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) was added for cooperation on Maldives' initiative. India and Maldives are undertaking strategic harbour projects viz pre-construction of the Coast Guard Harbour at SIFAVARU, which would assist Maldives in enhancing the capability of the MNDF in exercising jurisdiction and undertaking maritime surveillance of its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and atolls.
Highlights of the press statement after PM Modi held extensive discussions with President Solih to review all the dimensions of bilateral cooperation and exchanging views on important regional and global issues, are as under:
In the joint statement, PM Modi underlined that Maldives occupies a special place in the hearts of Indians and in India's "Neighbourhood First" policy. President Solih reaffirmed his government's "India-First Policy". Both leaders agreed to further deepen institutional linkages for cooperation in the areas of defence and security, investment promotion, human resource development, infrastructure development including climate and energy.
Both noted the direct cargo vessel service between India and Maldives since September 2020, and desired that the service become an enabler of increased bilateral trade.
Both leaders welcomed the positive contribution to island communities from the 45 Community Development Projects, being implemented through grant assistance from India
Both leaders directed officials to commence implementation at the earliest of the revised DPR of the Gulhifalhu Port Project as it will provide world class port facility for Greater Male' replacing the existing port and relocation of facilities from Male' City. They also welcomed final approval by the Indian side for signing of the Hanimaadhoo Airport Development project EPC contract. Both leaders welcomed the positive contribution to island communities from the 45 Community Development Projects, being implemented through grant assistance from India.
Following bilateral agreements/ memorandum of understandings (MoUs) were signed between India and Maldives during Solih's visit:
China's 'hold' on Maldives is the debt Maldives owes to China as also large number of Chinese tourists visiting Maldives. Tourism makes large contribution to the economy of Maldives. In the overall context, according to the statistics Ministry of Finance of Maldives published on June 5, 2022, the Solih administration has taken a total of MVR 37 billion ($2.4 billion) as loans in the past four years – more than the loans taken by the previous administration in its five years tenure with one year left to spare. India's Exim Bank is the biggest lender to Maldives. In the past four years, India's Exim Bank has sourced MVR 19 billion ($1.2 billion) to Maldives.
President Solih's recent visit to India provided an opportunity for the two leaders to review the progress made in this wide ranging partnership and has lent further momentum to it
Maldives is India's key neighbour in the Indian Ocean Region and occupies a special place in India's Neighbourhood First Policy. In recent years, the partnership has witnessed rapid growth in all areas of cooperation. The defence and security partnership between India and Maldives is a time-tested force for stability in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and a leading example of regional cooperation in the areas of transnational crimes and disaster relief. President Solih's recent visit to India provided an opportunity for the two leaders to review the progress made in this wide ranging partnership and has lent further momentum to it. There is tremendous scope for the India-Maldives partnership to grow.