Minister of External Affairs Smt. Sushma Swaraj had visited Maldives in a sign of resetting of ties.
The Visit :-
- The visit to the Island nation comes after the formation of the new government in Maldives which has openly reaffirmed its commitment to India First Policy.
- On its part, India reiterated its neighborhood first policy.
- At the visit, three agreements were signed by the countries which is being seen as first full-fledged bilateral engagement between the countries.
- The three agreements include: 1). Agreement on visa exemption for diplomats. 2). MoU on renewable energy projects. 3). MoU on thousand additional slots for Maldivian students for various courses in India.
- During the visit, the Minister had inaugurated the renovated Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital.
- The Maldivian government offered new land for Indian Embassy.
- Prior to the MEA’s visit, the President of Maldives made his first official visit to India signalling resetting of ties.
- During that visit, Prime Minister of India had announced $1.4 billion grants for Maldives.
Why Maldives Visit is Important?
- Maldives under the Presidentship of Abdullah Yameen, in cahoots with China, had cut-off ties with India.
- Many development projects of India in the country had been cancelled.
- China was given priority in developmental projects.
- This has been viewed by many experts as part of China’s ‘String of Pearls’ strategy.
- With India’s support, the Maldivian opposition came to power and formed a democratic government.
Why it’s “String Of Pearls” :-
- It is an unofficial geopolitical strategy of China to curtail the progress of India.
- As part of the strategy, China will establish strategic ties with the neighbouring countries of India and establish naval bases in them.
- The strategy has both military and commercial aspects to it.
- Glimpses of the strategy can be seen in the way China established the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), establishment of a military base in Djibouti, previous involvement in the politics of Maldives and Sri Lanka etc.
Countering the Strategy
- India on its part is taking numerous measures to counter the Chinese Strategy.
- To reestablish its ties with the neighbouring Indian Ocean countries, the government has launched Project Mausam to revive cultural ties with those countries through which the old monsoon sea routes fall.
- The country constantly conducts military and naval exercises with major Indian Ocean littoral countries.
- In economic arena, India’s commercial interests generally follows the economic interests of the host nations and creates a win-win situation.
- Unlike China, the loans provided by India are soft loans with low interests.
- Also, India’s strong ties with major countries like France, USA and Australia are thwarting any misadventure of China in the region.
India-Maldives Ties :-
- Since independence from the British, the ties between the two countries have been cordial barring particular times when the local political leaders fell into the influence of China and Pakistan.
- For India, ties with Maldives is of strategic significance in the Indian Ocean.
It is why India will continue its goodwill with Maldives in the future too.