'India Out' Campaign gaining ground In Maldives
Polity & Governance
3rd Jan, 2022
‘India out’ campaigning which has been running on social media platforms since last year, recently intensified with the leader of opposition party leading it.
- The anti-India sentiment did not just sprout overnight last year, but is nearly a decade old and can be traced back to when Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom of the Progressive Party (PPM) became president in 2013.
- The “India Out” campaign was launched in the Indian Ocean nation last year by the Progressive Congress – a coalition of the opposition parties led by the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPP) – to protest against the “India First” policy pursued by the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).
Pro-India and Pro-China
There are two main political parties in the Maldives.
- One is Progressive Party (PPM) which is main opposition party.
- Second is Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) which is currently the ruling party in Maldives.
It is being experienced that PPM is pro-China and MDP is pro-India.
- India-Maldives relations deteriorated during the PPM’s five-year rule and the anti-India sentiment was apparent even back then.
- A lot of anti-India rhetoric was used during that time because the Maldivian government was pro-China.
The country profile
- An archipelago of 1,192 coral island, Maldives is located in the Indian Ocean, 400km south-west of India.
- None of the coral islands stand more than 1.8 metres (six feet) above sea level, making the country vulnerable to any rise in sea levels associated with global warming.
- This republic nation has a population of around 540,000 people dispersed across 185 islands.
- Tourism is Maldives’ largest economic activity and accounts for around 70 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
- India and Maldives share ethnic, cultural, linguistic, and commercial ties. India was amongst the first to recognize Maldives after its independence in 1965 and later established its mission at Male in 1972.
- Presently, India is engaged in developing 45 infrastructure development projects in Maldives.
- In 2020, India decided to support the implementation of Greater Malé Connectivity Project in Maldives.
- In April 2021, both sides held their first meeting of the Joint Working Group on counterterrorism, countering violent extremism and de-radicalisation.
What are the reasons behind anti-India sentiments?
- Gift: India gave two Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters (ALF) to the Maldives in 2010 and 2015 both of which were to be used for ocean search-and-rescue operations, maritime weather surveillance and for airlifting patients between islands.
- A controversy took place that the helicopters marked the start of military presence in the country. The Maldives government requested India to take back the helicopters in 2016, but India refused to do so.
- Lack of transparency: Another issue is the lack of transparency when it comes to the signing of agreements between India and the Solih government.
Significance of ties with Maldives to India-
- Strategic relevance-
- Maldives is located at a strategic location in the Indian Ocean, next to the shipping lanes which ensures uninterrupted energy supplies to countries like China, Japan and India.
- Maldives is a member of SAARC and to become a 'net security provider' in the Indian Ocean region, it is necessary for India to maintain good ties with Maldives.
- The growing role of China in Maldives has also made it necessary for India to ensure its own interest are not compromised and China do not pose any security threat to India.
- Geopolitical significance-
- Maldives had consistently supported India in multilateral fora, such as the UN, the Commonwealth, the NAM and the SAARC.
- Maldives also co-sponsored the G-4 draft resolutions on reforms in United Nations. India has extended support to Maldives candidature for a non-permanent seat in the UN Security Council for the term 2019-20.
- Economic relations-
- India?Maldives bilateral trade in 2020 stands at around US$ 290.27 mn with trade balance for India.
- Indian exports to the Maldives include a variety of engineering and industrial products like drugs and medicines radar apparatus, rock boulders, aggregates, cement and agriculture produce like rice, spices, fruits, vegetables and poultry produce etc.
- Maldives also hold key place in the India’s vision of SAGAR (security and growth for all in the region) and ‘Neighborhood first’ policy.
- Cultural relations and People to people ties-
- There are 25,000 Indian nationals living in Maldives (second largest expatriate community).
- About 25% of Doctors and Teachers in Maldives are Indian nationals.
Why is India significant for Maldives?
- Economic relations
- India is Maldives’ 4th largest trade partner. Indian imports from the Maldives primarily comprise scrap metals.
- State Bank of India (SBI) has been playing a vital role in the economic development of the Maldives since February, 1974 by providing loan assistance for promotion of island resorts, export of marine products and business enterprises
- Strategic relevance
- Due to India’s strategic location, India can act a first response nation in case of any adversity in Maldives.
- Secondly, India can act as a great balancer to China due to growing Chinese investments in Maldives.
- It is strategically located along major sea lanes in the Indian Ocean. A significant portion of world trade takes place through the Indian Ocean. All the energy supplies coming from Gulf nations pass through this area.
- Security importance
- India acted as the first responder in 1988 and prevented a military coup in Maldives under ‘Operation Cactus’.
- Joint naval exercises are also being conducted in the Indian Ocean.
- In 2018, India was the 5th largest source of tourist arrivals in Maldives.
- Indian tourists also account for close to 6% of tourists Maldives receives every year
- Maldivian diaspora in India-
- India is also a preferred destination for Maldivians for education, medical treatment, recreation and business. According to MEA, more and more Maldivians are seeking long term visa for pursuing higher studies/medical treatment in India
- Both India and Maldives are crucial to each other. The historic ties as well as contemporary relations among the two makes it necessary that bilateral issues must be resolved amicably. Various mechanisms like annual summits and 2+2 dialogue can be explored for regular exchange of information.
- Secondly, sovereignty is a key concern of any nation. While India should protect its economic and geopolitical interests in the country, India should refrain from interfering in its internal matters.
- Thirdly, Maldives should understand that in a multipolar world, partnership with all the neighbor states are important and political reasons should not become a reason of poor ties.
The India Maldives relations have stood the test of time which reflects the depth of bond between the two. While some hurdles appear time and again, the mutual relationship should continue to grow in the interest of each other.