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India-Maldives bilateral relations

  • Published
    30th Dec, 2022

India must strengthen ties with the Maldives without taking sides in domestic politics, given the political turmoil the Maldives is experiencing.


  • Former Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen has been convicted by a Maldivian criminal court
  • As opposition leader, he has spearheaded the “India Out” campaign.
  • Yameen has been alleged of having close links with China.

How are these developments relevant to India?

  • Abdulla Yameen is trying to link his incarceration to pressure from India.
  • India needs to tread carefully regarding the domestic politics of the Maldives.

How have India’s Relations with the Maldives been?

  • Security Partnership: Recently, the National College for Policing and Law Enforcement (NCPLE) was inaugurated by India’s External Affairs Minister.
  • Economic Cooperation: Tourism is the mainstay of the Maldivian economy. The country is now a major tourist destination for some Indians and a job destination for others.
    • In August 2021, Afcons, an Indian company, signed a contract for the largest-ever infrastructure project in Maldives which is the Greater Male Connectivity Project (GMCP).
  • India is Maldives' 2nd largest trading partner – rising from its 4th position in 2018.
    • In 2021, bilateral trade registered a growth of 31% over the previous year – overcoming the pandemic-related challenges.

Recent developments in India-Maldives Relations

  • The Government has approved the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in the field of judicial cooperation between India and the Judicial Service Commission of Maldives.
  • It is the eighth MoU signed between India and other countries in the field of Judicial Cooperation.
  • Male connectivity project: The Greater Male Connectivity Project launch, a USD 500 million project funded by New Delhi.
  • Agreements: The countries have signed six agreements to expand cooperation in a range of areas in the Maldives, including:
    • Cybersecurity
    • Capacity Building
    • Housing
    • Disaster Management
    • Challenges in India-Maldives Relations


  • Political Instability: India’s primary concern has been the impact of political instability in the neighbourhood on its security and development.
  • The February 2015 arrest of Maldives’ opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed on terrorism charges and the consequent political crisis have posed a real diplomatic test for India’s neighbourhood policy.
  • Radicalization: In the past decade or so, the number of Maldivians drawn towards terrorist groups like the Islamic State (IS) and Pakistan-based jihadist groups has been increasing.
  • This gives rise to the possibility of Pakistan-based terror groups using remote Maldivian islands as a launch pad for terror attacks against India and Indian interests.
  • China Angle: China’s strategic footprint in India’s neighbourhood has increased. The Maldives has emerged as an important 'pearl' in China’s “String of Pearls” construct in South Asia.
  • Given the uncertain dynamics of Sino-Indian relations, China’s strategic presence in the Maldives remains a concern.
  • Also, the Maldives have started using the China card to bargain with India.
    • Anti-India sentiments: The ‘India Out’ campaign has been effective in coordinating between different sources—political parties, social media, media, and China—and intensifying the anti-India sentiments more than ever.
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