Maldives - India Relations
India remains wary of China`s continuing efforts to expand its strategic footprint in Maldives. India, on its part, has tried to step up its own defence engagement with Maldives as well as other countries in the Indian Ocean region. Defence Minister Antony had visited Maldives in August 2009. Indian warships and Dornier reconnaissance aircraft regularly help Maldives in maritime patrol and surveillance.
Maldives falls within India's sphere of influence and in 1976 signed an agreement demarcating the maritime boundary between the two countries. It has also received military assistance from India, such as the sending of 1,600 military personnel in 1988 at President Gayoom's request to repel a group of invading mercenaries.
India supports the Maldivian people's efforts to build a stable, peaceful and prosperous country. The two countries have common security interests, India is committed to working the Government in Maldives to further enhance close, bilateral cooperation to mutual benefit and for the continued security, progress and prosperity of the two countries.
India and Maldives have decided to develop “a privileged partnership” between the two countries. Addressing a joint press conference with the Maldivian Foreign Minister Dr. Ahmad Shaheed in Male a short while before departing for home at the end of his two-day visit to the Island country in April 2006, the Defence Minister Shri Pranab Mukherjee said that India would like “to maintain and consolidate its close links and trust with Maldives and to be of assistance, wherever and whenever we can, with our friends”. Describing Maldives as an important member and partner of the Indian Ocean Region, Shri Mukherjee said that India’s mutually beneficial relationship with the Republic of Maldives will not only secure its vital interests in the region, but also reinvigorate our ties with a key member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). He reiterated New Delhi’s desire to strengthen relations with Maldives “on the basis of equality and respect so as to elevate them to an ever high level”.
President Mohamed Nasheed assured the Indian government that the Maldives would never do anything that threatened India's security interests. India's IBN Live quoted the President 29 October 2011 as saying that the Maldives understands the concerns of India about China's growing presence in the Indian Ocean and efforts to expand its influence in the Maldives. "I can assure all Indians that Maldives will always be India's friend and we believe that we cannot find a better friend than India," he told journalists on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) being held in Perth, Australia.
Both historically and commercially, people from the southern coast of India, particularly from Kerala, had been in close and regular contact with the Maldives. But these contacts did not metamorphose into a composite socio-cultural group, perhaps owing to the exclusive Islamic identity of the Maldives and its people. The popularity here of Indian movies, music and various Indian products can be attributed to the fact that Indians from the west coast of India have been engaged in a thriving coastal trade with the Maldives for a very long time. The similarity of some words in the local Dhivehi language with Hindi words must indicate the historical process of interaction between the two neighboring countries.
The Indian Diaspora in the Maldives is mainly composed of doctors, teachers, engineers, accountants, managers and other such highly qualified professionals. They have helped the country in the development of its human resources in many sectors. There are also, in the Maldives, a large number of Indian skilled and unskilled personnel, namely, technicians, masons, tailors, plumbers and labourers. They are made a handsome contribution to the development of the country’s permanent assets.
The Bilateral Trade Agreement signed on 31st March, 1981 will remain progressively in force until it is modified or terminated by either country by giving three months’ notice to the other. The Agreement provides for Most Favoured Nation (MFN) treatment to each other in trade and merchant vessels, promotion of commercial and technical cooperation through exchange of delegations and participation in trade fairs and exhibitions and supply of essential commodities by Government of India to Government of Maldives on annual quota. All payments between India and Maldives are in freely convertible currency, subject to their foreign exchange regulations.
On December 28, 1976, the Governments of the Republic of India and the Republic of Maldives signed an agreement establishing a maritime boundary. If any single geological petroleum or natural gas structure or field, or any single geological structure or field of any mineral deposit, including sand or gravel, extends across the boundary and the part of such structure or field which is situated on one side of the boundary is exploited, in whole or in part, from the other side of the boundary, the two countries shall seek to reach agreement as to the manner in which the structure or field shall be most effectively exploited and the manner in which the proceeds deriving therefrom shall be apportioned.
On the night of November 3, 1988, the Indian Air Force mounted special operations to airlift a parachute battalion group from Agra, non-stop over 2000 km. out beyond the South-Western coast of India to the remote Indian Ocean archipelago of the Maldives. In response to that Government's appeal for military help against a mercenary invasion, the IL-76s of No. 44 Squadron landed at Hulule at 0030 hours, the Indian paratroopers securing the airfield and restoring Government rule at Male within hours. Buildup of forces continued the next day, with IL-76s, An-2s and An-32s flown to the Maldives from Trivandrum, while IAF Mirage 2000s made low level passes over the scattered islands in a show of force. The most immediate reality that emerged from this brief, and bloodless, action was the swift and effective Indian military response, made possible by the IAF's strategic airlift capability.
In 2013, India continued its efforts to maintain its economic and military ties with important regional partners in East and Southeast Asia. India and Japan conducted their second bilateral naval exercise in the Bay of Bengal in December, and India and Vietnam increased their naval engagement in November. India also signed a trilateral agreement with the Maldives and Sri Lanka in 2013 aimed at improving maritime security cooperation.
The Indian Navy had always been amongst the first responders to crises in Maldives. The first instance was in 1988 after mercenaries attempted a coup against the elected government. INS Godavari and INS Betwa responded to Maldives’ request and rescued abducted people from the fleeing mercenaries. This earned the lasting goodwill of the Maldivian Government and its people. IN was also the first to respond after Maldives was struck by a Tsunami in Dec 2004. IN Ships Mysore, Aditya and Udaygiri, along with their integral helicopters undertook prolonged and extensive operations to provide immediate succour to many islands in Maldives. In these efforts the Indian Navy established a Maritime Coordination Centre at Male for coordinating relief activities and assisted in distribution of relief supplies, restoration of power and provision of safe drinking-water. Medical aid was provided in the form of mobile medical camps and serious cases were evacuated by ship’s helicopters to Male.
In a swift response to the ‘National Crisis’ faced by the Maldives, following the shutting down the desalination plants in a December 2014 fire incident in capital in Male’, the Indian Government pressed into service as much as five Indian Air Force transport aircraft and one Naval vessel carrying a large consignment of potable water to meet the immediate requirement of the people in Male’. Out of five aircraft, the first aircraft to reach Male’ was an IL-76 carrying 22 tonnes of potable water.
INS Sukanya, an offshore patrol vessel, was on a routine patrol off Kochi. She was diverted to reach Male at the earliest to render necessary assistance and all the possible help to Maldivian authorities. INS Sukanya is carried 35 Tonnes of fresh water and has two Reverse Osmosis (RO) plants onboard which have a capacity of producing 20 tonnes of fresh water per day. Additionally INS Deepak, a large fleet tanker with 900 tonnes of water was also sailed from Mumbai and has reached Male this evening (07 Dec 14). Indian Navy warships have the capability to produce drinking water using their desalination plants (INS Deepak is capable of producing 100 Tons water every day).
The President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee has extended his greetings and felicitations to the Government and people of the Republic of Maldives on the eve of their Independence Day (July 26, 2015). In his message to His Excellency Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, the President of the Republic of Maldives, the President has said, “On behalf of the Government and the people of India and on my own behalf, I have great pleasure in extending my warm greetings and best wishes to you and to the friendly people of the Republic of Maldives on the occasion of your Independence Day and completion of fifty years as an independent nation.
"This year also marks the golden jubilee year of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our two countries. I am confident that the traditional ties of friendship and cooperation that exist between our two countries will continue to flourish in the years ahead. Please accept, Excellency, my best wishes for your good health and personal well-being.”
In a signal of a revival in ties between India and the Maldives, on April 11, 2016 the president of the Indian Ocean island country committed to what he called an “India-first” policy on a two-day visit to New Delhi. During talks between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom on Monday, the two countries sought to put behind a recent spell of cooler ties. India was seen backing former Maldivian president Mohamed Nasheed, and Chinese influence was perceived to be on the rise in the country that lies along important shipping routes in the Indian Ocean.
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