By TNV Desk
Sharing common grounds of ethnic, lingual, cultural, religious, and commercial links, Bharat and Maldives have been able to establish relationships with each other since 1965. Despite being a small state, Maldives thrives to be an important neighbor to Bharat. Bharat’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke of Maldives as “a valued partner in the Indian Ocean neighborhood” and stated that “our foundation has been built on a strong ground, inhibiting the security, strategic, economic and developmental goals.”
The first treaty that was ever signed between both countries was in 1981, where they signed a comprehensive trade agreement. Both nations are founding members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), the South Asian Economic Union, and signatories to the South Asia Free Trade Agreement.
Maldives has been the recipient of Government of India’s(GoI) COVID relief among its neighbors including a 14 member Rapid Response Medical team of Anaesthetics, Cardiologist, Public health care to name a few deployed from the Armed Forces Medical Services(AFMS, India) in the Maldives from March 13th to 21st,2020. AFMS provided help, guidance, and assistance to the Maldives authorities in tracing the threat of Corona. Bharat also donated the necessary and essential items to cater to the 3 months requirement of the Maldives providing over 317 cartons on March 14th,2020.
On April 2nd,2020, a special Indian AirForce(IAF) plane was sent from Bharat to the Maldives, carrying 6.2 tonnes of important medical supplies. Due to the spike in cases that overthrew the Maldivians, both PMs reached out to each other lending support against the threat of the Corona Virus. Indian Prime Minister Modi continues to support the Maldives in minimizing the health and economic outbreak.
Bilateral Economic and Trade Relations
By signing a trade agreement in 1981 it paved a way for the export of essential commodities through Bharat-Maldives. With modest beginnings, Bharat‐Maldives’ bilateral trade now stands at US$ 290.27 mn with a trade balance for Bharat. When looking at the present level of commercial exchanges and trade between them it has festered and is not equivalent with their potential. In order for boosting trade and investment, on August 6‐7 an 18 member CII CEO delegation visited Malè to meet the Maldivian counterparts & concerned Ministers to explore business avenues. Between Bharat and Maldives, a Cargo Ferry wheel was operated by the Shipping Corporation of India that had commenced on September 21st, 2020.
Bharat is considered to be the 4th largest trade partner for the Maldives after UAE, China, and Singapore, thereby importing from Maldives scrap metals, while Bharat exports a variety of engineering and industrial products like medicines radar apparatus, rock boulders, aggregates, cement, and agriculture products like rice, spices, fruits, vegetables, and poultry products to the Maldives. Bharat’s assistance to the Maldives can be visible via the IGMH. During the time of the former Prime Minister Shri Rajiv Gandhi’s visit to Male’ in February 1986, it was acknowledged to establish a medical complex in Male’ with Indian assistance. India provided around 72 doctors/paramedics and nurses to assist the Maldives in the management and running of the Hospital.
Currently, IGMH, with its state-of-the-art facilities, is the leading institute in the Maldives for providing health services to its citizens. During Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Male in November 2011, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed through which Bharat will carry out major renovation works of the hospital.
Bharat’s assistance in regards to the 1988 coup attempt, led to the development of trust, a long‐term and friendly bilateral relations with the Maldives. With the immediate withdrawal of Bharat’s troops, they were no longer required to alleviate fears of any Indian dominance or territorial aspirations.
On the first overseas visit, President Solih paid a visit to Bharat from December 17th to 18th,2018, in the course of which India had announced a financial assistance package of US$1.4 billion and offered additional 1000 scholarships over the next 5 years. The government of India (GoI) provided the US $ 50 million as support to the Group of Ministers (GoM) through two equal installments in December 2018 and in January 2019.
When Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited first after taking the oath of office for his second term on June 8th to June 9th, 2019 he attended a meeting with President Solis followed by delegation-level talks, Prime Minister Modi addressed a session of the newly constituted People’s Majlis. Vice President Faisal Naseem, Speaker of People’s Majlis Mohamed Nasheed, Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdulla Shahid, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, former speaker Qasim Ibrahim and Minister of Home Affairs Imran Abdulla called on the Prime Minister.
Both sides signed cooperation in the field of Hydrography on Memorandum of Understanding (Mou), in the field of Health, initiation of Passenger cum Cargo services by sea, cooperation in Customs’ capacity building, cooperation between Maldives Civil Service Commission and National Centre for Good Governance (NCGG), Mussoorie and a Technical Agreement on the exchange of White Shipping Information between Bharat & Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF). Both the leaders inaugurated the Cost to Company (CTC) facility of Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) in Maafilafushi and Coastal Surveillance Radar System through remote links.
In terms of economic recovery to assist the Maldivians, Bharat has imparted financial assistance in September 2020 of about US$ 250 million based on the investment that was made by the State bank of India to the Maldives Government.
They say a friend in need is a friend indeed but looking at the bilateral relations that Bharat and Maldives share is remarkable and a bond that can never be broken on any grounds. Both these nations have stood up for each other on the basis of good or bad circumstances and it is safe to say having a genuine relationship with one nation is somewhat a difficult task.
Before connecting ties with Bharat, the Maldives relationship was more compatible with China. China–Maldives relation dates back to 2009. China has an embassy in Malé which opened in November 2011 and the Maldives has an embassy in Beijing which opened in 2009. Diplomatic relations were established in 1972. Bharat’s influence in its neighborhood was dealt with a stunning blow in 2018 when Maldives entered into a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China.
Bharat and Maldives have encountered the economic growth and the development of their nation together and looking towards the future- the alliance and treaties will bind them together for the future generations to build and create a stronger bond for future endeavors.