Maldives to not renew 2019 water survey pact with India

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Maldives to not renew 2019 water survey pact with India Blog Image

What’s in today’s article?

  • Why in news?
  • Hydrographic survey pact
  • What is the hydrographic survey?
  • Hydrographic survey pact between India and Maldives
  • Why does Maldives want to end the pact?
  • Does India have such water survey pacts with other countries as well?

Why in news?

  • The Maldives government has decided to not renew an agreement with India that allowed India to conduct hydrographic surveys in Maldivian waters.
  • The agreement was signed in 2019 during PM Modi’s visit to the islands, when President Ibrahim Solih was in power.

What is the hydrographic survey?

  • About
    • Hydrographic surveys are carried out by ships, which use methods such as sonar to understand the various features of a water body.
  • Aim of such surveys
    • According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), these surveys help:
      • map out water depth,
      • the shape of the seafloor and coastline,
      • the location of possible obstructions, and
      • physical features of water bodies.
    • These surveys are done to ensure the efficiency and safety of maritime transportation.
  • Scope for international co-operation in hydrography
    • A UN study said that approximately 50% of coastal states have no hydrographic capability and another 25% have only limited capabilities.
    • Only the remaining 25%, including India, have adequate hydrographic capabilities.
    • Hence, there is immense scope for international co-operation in hydrography.
    • This is particularly true in Asia and Africa, where 36% and 64% of the waters respectively, are yet to be surveyed systematically.

Hydrographic survey pact between India and Maldives

  • Background
    • PM Modi travelled to the Maldives for a State Visit in June 2019, the first overseas visit of his second term.
    • Various MoUs were signed during the visit, including one for Cooperation in the Field of Hydrography between the Indian Navy and the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF).
  • What was planned as part of this pact?
    • The survey is in line with India’s policy of supporting the Maldives to set up Hydrographic facilities within the MNDF.
    • So far, three joint hydrographic surveys have been undertaken – in 2021, 2022, and 2023.
      • The Indian Naval Ship (INS) Darshak carried out the first Joint Hydrographic survey in February and March of 2021.
    • An area of 944 square km was effectively surveyed – some of these areas had been last surveyed as far ago as in 1853.
    • The surveys were done to generate updated Navigational Charts/ Electronic Navigational Charts of the areas, which would help sectors such as Tourism, Fisheries, Agriculture, etc.
    • The ship was to also carry out tidal observations to enable accurate tidal predictions.
  • India’s support to Maldives to set up Hydrographic facilities within the MNDF
    • The hydrographic equipment was presented to the MNDF in March 2021.
    • More equipment was gifted to MNDF by the Chief of Naval Staff in April 2022 for the Maldives Hydrographic office.
    • Training was also imparted to MNDF personnel on the use of survey equipment.
      • India said it would train more MNDF personnel at its Hydrographic Institute in Goa.

Why does Maldives want to end the pact?

  • Change in regimes following the elections in October this year
    • President Solih of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), who was in power from 2018 to 2023, was seen as being more favourable to India.
    • But his successor Mohamed Muizzu of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) is being seen as more pro-China.
  • India Out campaign
    • In 2020, an ‘India Out’ campaign began in Maldives, alleging that New Delhi had sent a large military contingent to the Maldives.
    • During the election campaign, Muizzu said agreements with foreign countries must be terminated unless their presence was beneficial to the Maldives.
    • This was seen as a reference to India.
      • The Indian military is known to operate two helicopters and assist in search and rescue operations for people stranded or facing calamities at sea.

Does India have such water survey pacts with other countries as well?

  • In 2021, India’s oldest Hydrographic Survey ship, INS Sandhayak, was decommissioned.
  • In its 40 years of service, it undertook more than 200 major hydrographic surveys along the Western and Eastern coasts of the Indian peninsula, and the Andaman Sea.
  • It also undertook surveys in neighbouring countries including Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and Bangladesh.
  • Indian survey ships have assisted Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Maldives, Oman, Seychelles, Sri Lanka and Tanzania in the past.

Q1) What is "India Out" campaign?

The "India Out" campaign is a political campaign in the Maldives that taps into concerns about Indian domination. The campaign was led by the opposition, led by former president Abdulla Yameen, and targeted President Ibrahim Solih.

Q2) What is hydrography?

Hydrography is the science of measuring and describing the physical features of the Earth's navigable surface and coastal areas. It involves studying the physical features of water bodies, such as oceans, seas, and lakes.

Source: Maldives to not renew 2019 water survey pact with India: What are hydrographic surveys?