Script: Dr. GULBIN SULTANA, Research Analyst, Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Maldives Abdulla Shahid made an official visit to India last week. During the visit, Mr. Shahid met his Indian counterpart Dr. S. Jaishankar. The purpose of the visit was to review progress on bilateral cooperation and discuss the implementation of key developmental projects under the Indian Lines of Credit (LoC) extended to the Maldives. The Maldivian Foreign Minister also participated in the 6th Raisina Dialogue via virtual mode in sessions on “Financing for Sun” and “Global Public Health after the Pandemic”.
The discussions between the two Foreign Ministers, covered bilateral, regional, and international issues of mutual interests. The Maldives is a key maritime neighbour of New Delhi in the Indian Ocean region and occupies a central and special place in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of “Security and Growth for All in the Region” (SAGAR). In this context, India has been providing allround assistance to the Maldives for its socio-economic and security development.
India’s assistance to the Maldives during the Covid-19 Pandemic has been widely acknowledged by the Maldivians. During the pandemic, India provided US$ 250 million budget support to Male to deal with the Covid-19 challenges. Among other assistance during the pandemic, India allowed Maldivian patients to avail treatment in India during the lockdown period, ‘Air bubble’ agreement between the two countries helped the citizens of the island nation. 312,000 doses of vaccines from India (out of which 200,000 were on a grant basis) were supplied to the Maldives, which is notable.
Foreign Minister Shahid thanked India for the assistance provided to the people of Maldives, during his meeting with Dr. Jaishankar.
Mr. Abdulla Shahid noted the exemplary support received from India, throughout the pandemic, and in recovery, during his lecture at the Raisina Dialogue session entitled, “Beyond Covid: Public Health after the pandemic”. Sharing his perspectives on vaccine inequality, multilateralism, and recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic at the Raisina Dialogue, Mr. Shahid highlighted that vaccine inequality results in perpetuating the existing inequalities in the international system, especially between the “haves” and the “have nots”.
The Maldivian Foreign Minister shared his country’s experience with the Covid-19 pandemic and the key role of international partners in pathways to recovery adopted by the island-country and in building resilience against the epidemic. Mr. Shahid said that his Government “firmly believes small States survive in an interconnected global economy, relying on the strength and closeness of their international partners”.
Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT), Government of India in a notification had permitted uninterrupted export of potatoes, onions, rice, wheat flour, sugar, dal (pulses) and eggs to the Republic of Maldives as per the bilateral trade agreement. The notification also mentioned that these essential items would be exempted from any existing or future restrictions/prohibition on export.
Mr. Shahid during his meeting with Indian External Affairs Minister requested the renewal of the DGFT notifications regarding the assured supply of essential commodities to the Maldives from India. Responding to the request Dr. Jaishankar assured Minister Shahid of India’s ongoing support for the socio-economic development of the Maldives, including the uninterrupted supply of essential commodities.
During his visit to India, the Foreign Minister of the Maldives met with Ambassadors and representatives of 16 countries across Europe and Africa. He stated one of the main priorities placed by President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s administration upon assuming office in 2018 was reinstating and enhancing diplomatic ties with the international community.
In this regard, the Minister noted the Maldives has established strong ties with several countries over the past two years. It is expected that this would help Male to gain support for the bid to win the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Presidency. New Delhi has officially expressed support for Male’s bid.
Since 2018, efforts have been on, both from India and the Maldives to strengthen and re-energize bilateral relations between
the two close neighbours. High-level bilateral visits are testimony to the commitment of both sides to continue the momentum.