Re-engaging with Male: Why India has moved to secure its relationship with Maldives

The defence action plan is an important component of the India-Maldives bilateral relationship and the shared strategic and security interests of the two countries in the Indian Ocean region.

Written by Shubhajit Roy | New Delhi | Updated: April 13, 2016 1:26 pm
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Maldives' President Yameen Abdul Gayoom before a delegation-level meeting in New Delhi. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup) Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Maldives’ President Yameen Abdul Gayoom before a delegation-level meeting in New Delhi. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Maldives was cancelled last year, there were angry reactions from Maldives – across the political spectrum.

The reason was that India did not find the democratic atmosphere in Maldives conducive after former President Mohammed Nasheed was jailed.

While that endeared India to Nasheed’s party, Abdulla Yameen’s government was not happy India remained silent.

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Over the next six months, it saw Maldives being wooed by two of India’s neighbours – China and Pakistan. And alarm bells started ringing in South Block.

India-Maldives Cooperation Plan: Understanding The Significance

Foreign secretary S Jaishankar initiated the process of patching-up, followed by External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj. India realised that pragmatism was a better choice.

And, New Delhi started re-engaging with Male because of strategic and security reasons.

That is what happened when New Delhi and Male patched up its ties and signed a crucial action plan on defence cooperation on Monday. This was signed after the bilateral conversation between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the visiting Maldives President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom on Monday.

New Delhi is viewing its relationship with Male from the strategic and security prism, and the new action plan has been developed in the wake of growing Chinese influence in the island country. So, it has shed its earlier reservations on the political environment, and Yameen acknowledged Delhi’s support at the Commonwealth grouping on this issue.

The defence action plan is an important component of the India-Maldives bilateral relationship and the shared strategic and security interests of the two countries in the Indian Ocean region. “The Action Plan envisages an institutional mechanism at the level of the Defence Secretaries to further bilateral defence cooperation,” officials said.

India knows the strategic importance of Maldives in the Indian Ocean. And, it has moved to secure that relationship with Yameen’s visit.

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