Maldives asks India to withdraw troops by March 15

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What’s in today’s article?

  • Why in news?
  • India – Maldives Bilateral Relation
  • India as a first responder and net security provider for Maldives
  • Security & Defence Cooperation between India and Maldives
  • Development Cooperation between India and Maldives
  • Bilateral Economic and Trade Relations between India and Maldives
  • Tourism from India to Maldives
  • Indian Community in Maldives:
  • News Summary: Maldives asks India to withdraw troops by March 15
  • How many Indian troops are in the Maldives?
  • Anti-India sentiments among a section of the Maldives’ population
  • What are the major factors behind the fear and suspicion?

Why in news?

  • Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu has asked India to withdraw its troops from the island nation by March 15.
  • This announcement was made even as the India-Maldives High Level Core Group held its first meeting, in Malé.
    • The High-Level Core Group was set up when the Maldivian President and PM Modi met on the sidelines of the UN climate summit in Dubai.

India – Maldives Bilateral Relation

  • India and Maldives share ethnic, linguistic, cultural, religious and commercial links and enjoy close, cordial and multi-dimensional relations.
  • India was among the first to recognise Maldives after its independence in 1965 and to establish diplomatic relations with the country.

India as a first responder and net security provider for Maldives

  • India’s prompt assistance during the 1988 coup attempt, led to development of trust and long-term and friendly bilateral relations with the Maldives.
    • Under Operation Cactus the Indian Armed Forces helped the Government of Maldives in the neutralization of the coup attempt.
  • India was the first to assist Maldives during the 2004 Tsunami as well as the water crisis in Malé in Dec 2014.
  • India had swift dispatch of 30,000 doses of measles vaccine in Jan 2020 to prevent an outbreak in the Maldives.
  • India’s rapid and comprehensive assistance to the Maldives during COVID-19 pandemic further reinforced India’s credentials of being the first responder.

Security & Defence Cooperation between India and Maldives

  • A comprehensive Action Plan for Defence was also signed in April 2016 to consolidate defence partnership.
  • India provides the largest number of training opportunities for Maldivian National Defence Force (MNDF), meeting around 70% of their defence training requirements. India has trained over 1500 MNDF trainees over the past 10 years.
  • Annual Defence Cooperation Dialogue at level of Defence Secretary was initiated in July 2016.

Development Cooperation between India and Maldives

  • The major completed and ongoing development assistance projects executed by India are
    • Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital 
    • Maldives Institute of Technical Education (now called the Maldives Polytechnic) 
    • India-Maldives Faculty of Hospitality & Tourism Studies
    • Technology Adoption Programme in Education Sector in Maldives
    • National College for Police and Law Enforcement (NCPLE)
  • Infrastructure & Connectivity Projects under Exim Bank Line of Credit of US$ 800 million
    • The following projects are being implemented under these LoCs:
      • Water and Sanitation in 34 Islands: 
      • Addu Development Project (Roads and Land Reclamation): 
      • Cancer Hospital
      • Gulhifalhu Port project: 
      • Hulhumalé Cricket Stadium: During PM visit in June 2019, it was committed that the Stadium will be built under Indian assistance.
  • Greater Male Connectivity Project
    • The project aims to connect Male to Villingili, Gulhifalhu and Thilafushi islands through a series of bridges, causeways and roads. 
    • It is funded through a separate $ 400 million LoC and $ 100 million grant from India.

Bilateral Economic and Trade Relations between India and Maldives

  • India emerged as Maldives’ 2nd largest trade partner in 2022. The total bilateral trade between the two countries stood at $501.82 million in 2022 (Jan – Dec).
    • During this period, India’s export to Maldives stood at $ 495.40 million and import from Maldives was $ 6.42 million.
  • In November 2022, India, amid the economic challenges faced by the Maldives, handed over a financial assistance of US$ 100 million.
  • In December 2022, the RBI signed a Currency Swap Agreement with the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA).
    • This agreement enabled MMA to make drawls in multiple tranches up to a maximum of USD 200 million from the RBI.

Tourism from India to Maldives

  • In 2023 alone, among the tourists who travelled to the Maldives, Indians formed the largest group of tourists with over 200,000 travellers.

Indian Community in Maldives

  • Indians are the second largest expatriate community in Maldives with an approximate strength of around 22,000. 
  • About 25% of Doctors and Teachers in Maldives are Indian nationals.

News Summary: Maldives asks India to withdraw troops by March 15

  • Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu has asked India to withdraw its military personnel from his country by March 15.
  • Maldives and India have set up a high-level core group to negotiate the withdrawal of troops.
    • The group held its first meeting at the Foreign Ministry Headquarters in Male of January 14.

How many Indian troops are in the Maldives?

  • According to the latest government figures, there are 88 Indian military personnel in the Maldives.
  • Indian soldiers have been sent to the Maldives at various points for training Maldivian troops, in both combat and reconnaissance and rescue-aid operations.

Anti-India sentiments among a section of the Maldives’ population

  • Sometime in 2020, the India Out campaign started as on-ground protests in the Maldives which later spread widely across social media platforms.
  • By the second half of 2021, it had developed into an active and visible political campaign.
  • The supporters of the campaign had claimed that it had been started to protest against what they called Indian military presence in the country.
    • They had actively targeted all aspects of India-Maldives bilateral relations.

What are the major factors behind the fear and suspicion?

  • Controversy over two Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters (ALF)
    • One of the major triggers for this was the long-standing controversy over two Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters (ALF) given by India to the Maldives.
    • Indian officers had been sent to the Maldives to train the Maldives National Defence Force, under whose command these helicopters operate.
    • However, it was portrayed that by gifting these helicopters, India was creating military presence in the country.
  • Lack of transparency of previous govt about its dealings with India
    • Another major cause of grievances within Maldives was the Solih government’s perceived lack of transparency about its dealings with India.
  • UTF Harbour Project agreement signed between India and the Maldives in Feb 2021
    • Under this agreement, India was to develop and maintain a coastguard harbour and dockyard at Uthuru Thilafalhu, a strategically located atoll near the capital Malé. 
    • Sections of Maldivian media had speculated that the UTF project would be turned into an Indian naval base.

Q1) What is currency swap agreement?

A currency swap agreement is a financial contract between two parties to exchange a specific amount of one currency for an equivalent amount of another currency. 

Q2) What is Operation Cactus? 

Operation Cactus was a military operation carried out by India in 1988 to thwart a coup attempt in the Maldives. The operation began on the night of November 3, 1988, when the Indian Air Force airlifted the 50th Independent Parachute Brigade, the 6th Battalion of the Parachute Regiment, and the 17th Parachute Field Regiment.


Source: Maldives asks India to withdraw troops by March 15 | Embassy of India in Male | Indian Express