Question: Give an account of bilateral ties between India and Maldives. Explain how events such as #IndiaOut campaign can put relationship in jeopardy.
Answer: India and Maldives relations have always been strong except for a brief period when President Abdulla Yameen was at the helm. The anti-India narrative started during that tenure and has still been prevalent in some sections.
Bilateral ties between two countries
India is the net security provider for the Indian Ocean Region. Any problems faced by countries such as Maldives, India is first to respond.
Ex: Operation Cactus in 1988 to resolve the hostage situation.
- Relief operations
Maldives is vulnerable to natural calamities such as cyclones. Even during pandemic, India helped Maldives with medical supplies and also vaccines.
- Trade and culture
Maldives is majorly dependent on tourism sector. Majority of the tourists are Indians. India is Maldives’ largest trade partner and investor in its economy.
- Certain sections of the country believe that India is bullying Maldives and forcing it to abandon its sovereignty.
- India’s gifting of Dhruv helicopters for humanitarian mission is seen as militarization of the atoll.
- There is also rumor among political circles that the current government is allowing Indian military bases in certain island.
Implications of IndiaOut campaign
- Strengthening Chinese sentiments
China may make use of this opportunity to recover its lost ground. It may interfere in political decisions and use debt trap diplomacy again.
- Weakening bilateral relations
The ruling government in Maldives will be forced to abandon some of its decisions under public pressure if this campaign strengthens.
- Losing strategic space
Exiting Maldives amounts to losing strategic space in Indian Ocean Region. It will spell a doom for India’s global ambitions.
Thus, India must tread a careful path. It must avoid extreme actions and instead use diplomatic skills to negate the issue and strengthen its position.