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India-Maldives Relations

GS Paper 2

 Syllabus: Bilateral Relation


Source: IE

 Context: India and the Maldives have marked a milestone in their defence ties with the laying of the foundation stone for the Coast Guard ‘Ekatha Harbour’ in the Uthuru Thila Falhu atoll.


About the project:

PurposeTo strengthen the capability of the Maldivian Coast Guard and facilitate regional humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts
SignificanceThe project is among the biggest Indian grant-in-aid projects in the Maldives; a major step in growing defence cooperation between India and Maldives
Other DevelopmentsIndia gifted an additional landing craft to the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF); India had gifted a Dornier aircraft, patrol vessel, and coastal radar system to the Maldives in previous years
ControversyAllegations that the project was a cover for Indian military presence in Maldives; led to an “India Out” campaign backed by opposition leader Abdulla Yameen


Importance of Maldives for India: Long-standing ties with the Maldives; strategic location in the Indian Ocean; beneficial to India and other nations in the region with common maritime interests; in the backdrop of growing Chinese attempts to expand its influence in the region


Various Dimensions of India-Maldives Relations:

HistoricalThe Maldives has a history intertwined with India, including conquest by Rajaraja Chola’s Chola dynasty (Maldives’ northern atolls). It became a British colony and gained independence in 1965, leading to political unrest.
Security PartnershipJoint Exercises – “Ekuverin”, “Dosti”, “Ekatha” and “Operation Shield” (begun in 2021). India provides the largest number of training opportunities for the Maldivian National Defence Force (MNDF), meeting around 70% of their defence training requirements.


Maldives occupy an important position in India’s vision of ‘SAGAR’ (Security and Growth for All in the Region) and ‘Neighbourhood First’.

Economic CooperationIndia is Maldives’ 2nd largest trading partner. Afcons, an Indian company, signed a contract for the Greater Male Connectivity Project (GMCP)
Infrastructure ProjectsHanimaadhoo International Airport Development project under an Indian credit line. National College for Policing and Law Enforcement (NCPLE) was inaugurated by India’s External Affairs Minister (2022)
Grant AssistanceGrant assistance of 100 million Rufiyaa (currency of Maldives) for the High Impact Community Development Project (HICDP) scheme.
Sports and EducationDevelopment of a sports complex in Gahdhoo, and academic collaboration between Maldives National University and Cochin University of Science and Technology.
Rehabilitation CentreA drug detoxification and rehabilitation centre in Addu was built with Indian assistance.
China FactorChina’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.


Challenges in India-Maldives relations:

  • Political Instability: For instance, the arrest of Maldives’ opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed in 2015 and the subsequent political crisis strained India’s relationship with Maldives.
  • Radicalisation: The increasing number of Maldivians being drawn towards terrorist groups like the Islamic State (IS) and Pakistan-based jihadist groups is a concern for India.
  • China’s Strategic Presence: China’s increasing strategic presence in Maldives is a challenge for India. The Maldives has emerged as an important ‘pearl’ in China’s “String of Pearls” construct in South Asia, which is a concern for India’s security.
  • China’s dominance: In 2018, Maldives cancelled an agreement with India to develop a key naval base on the island of Marao.The move was seen as a result of China’s growing influence in the Maldives.
  • Political actions: Maldives cancelled a $511 million contract awarded to Indian company GMR to develop Male International Airport in 2012, which strained the relationship between the two countries.
  • Domestic Politics: The India Out campaign in Maldives, which seeks to create anti-India sentiments among the people of Maldives



 India needs to play a crucial role in ensuring regional security in South Asia and surrounding maritime boundaries by actively participating in the Indo-Pacific security space. Effective communication and convincing Maldivians about India’s intentions behind its projects on the island nation are essential to avoid any changes in the domestic political situation in Maldives.


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Mains Links 

Discuss the political developments in the Maldives in the last two years. Should they be of any cause for concern to India? ( UPSC 2013)