Dhaka, Bangladesh
India-Maldives relations

Off the Track

India-Maldives relations

Meera Srinivasan

For Maldivians, the election of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih in September 2018 meant a possible opening up of democratic space in the country, after former President Abdulla Yameen’s term, which was marked by an authoritarian slant. It also meant reconnecting with many countries with which Male’s relationship had turned rather tense in those years, particularly India. In an interview in Male, Maldivian Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid talks about how Maldives sees its role in the region, and its relationship with the world. Excerpts: Since your government came to power, India-Maldives ties have undergone a dramatic change, marked by renewed cooperation, close dialogue and multiple high-level visits from both sides. How do you view the changing dynamic? Since the new government came in, we have had very high-level visits. Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended President Solih’s swearing-in ceremony. I was in New Delhi a week after taking office, preparing for the visit of President Solih, who was in Delhi a month after being sworn in. The recent visit by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj cemented many aspects of the cooperation agenda we have been drawing up. The level of cooperation between the two countries has never been better. We are continuously in contact, we speak to each other at the highest levels whenever there seems to be any difficulty, which is very rare. That is because the leaders have shown where they would like the [relationship between the] two countries to go. And for us Ministers and staff of the ministries in both countries, it is a question of delivering. We have to deliver. The generous development assistance provided by the Indian government is deeply appreciated by the people of the Maldives. It is going into people-oriented projects like providing fresh water, sanitation, sewerage. Building roads and moving the Male commercial harbour to Thilafushi [island west of Male] are huge projects that are going to be major symbols of cooperation between the two countries. Between 2013 and 2018, then-President Yameen’s administration was seen as tilting heavily towards China amid growing tensions with India. Given that China has also been an important partner for the Maldives and the latter’s strategic location in the Indian Ocean, how does the geopolitical tussle between the two big powers affect the Maldives?

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