Mains Paper 2: International Relations
Prelims level: Not Much
Mains level: India-Maldives ties
India and the Maldives appeared to return to the old days of
strategic bonhomie when External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj met her
counterpart Abdulla Shahid in Male during a brief visit this week.
It is the first full-fledged bilateral visit at the political
level from India to the Maldives after the new government assumed office in
the wake of the historic election last September.
President Ibrahim Solih assumed charge after a multi-party,
pro-democracy coalition led by his Maldivian Democratic Party was swept to
Mr. Solih’s inauguration, which was marked by the attendance of
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was assumed to be a potential inflection point
in the trajectory of bilateral ties with India.
Embrace of China
The previous five years witnessed Male’s disconcerting drift,
under the aegis of the Abdulla Yameen government, into what many Maldivians
felt was the stifling embrace of China.
Chinese financing for infrastructure and construction projects
poured in even as the functioning of the political Opposition and the
judiciary was harshly curtailed.
All of this flux appeared to have been washed away on September
23, 2018 when the Maldivian electorate voted resoundingly for the coalition
that backed Mr. Solih for President.
Opportunity for both countries
There is indeed an opportunity for reset on numerous policies, and
some of that has already happened.
In December, when Mr. Solih visited India, a $1.4 billion
financial assistance package for the Maldives was announced.
The proximity of the Indian general election may have precluded
any major policy announcements from New Delhi.
The two countries have agreed to exempt holders of diplomatic and
official passports from visa requirements, inked an MoU on Indian
grant-in-aid for “high-impact community development projects”, and other
agreements on energy efficiency and renewable energy, areas critical to the
agenda of Mr. Solih.
At a broader level, the archipelago and the larger Indian Ocean
region could expect more collaborative approaches on regional maritime
security issues, including counterterrorism and trans-national crimes.
However, Male is still grappling with the legacy of the Yameen
administration’s headlong plunge into the orbit of Beijing.
The massive debts the Maldives incurred, by some estimates to the
tune of $3 billion, linked to infrastructure investments need to be unwound.
The multiparty alliance must hold firm despite immense political
pressures that arise from varying visions for governance.
Some tensions already seem to be bubbling to the top: on February
25, Mohamed Nasheed, former President and important coalition-builder in the
MDP, tweeted about the country’s Supreme Court “meddling in elections
For genuine peace and bilateral harmony to take root in the
region, building a shared vision for the future of the Maldives is the
immediate task at hand.