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India - Maldives relations UPSC NOTE

 

  • Ever since his swearing-in in November 2023 as the President of the Maldives, Mr. Muizzu has embraced a “pro-Maldives” policy that reduces his country’s dependence on India, increases relations with China, and diversifies its foreign policy with others

  • More than six months after his swearing-in and impairing Male’s ties with India, his foreign policy is now seeing some recalibration.

  • Mr. Muizzu’s foreign policy is shaped by domestic and external factors

  • Coming to power through a party that has led the “India Out” campaign, the leader has used anti-Indian rhetoric and diversification from India to further nationalist and religious sentiments and voter base in the Maldives

  • Further, owing to the increasing geostrategic importance of the Maldives and Male’s interest in reducing ties with India, he hopes to deepen the Maldives’s relationship with Japan, Saudi Arabia, Türkiye, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States.

  • However, economic difficulties at home in Male, extra-regional powers falling short of expectations, and India’s accommodative policy are now compelling Mr. Muizzu to rethink his strategy

  • First, the economy of the Maldives continues to be in deep trouble — there are increasing debt maturities, low revenues, and a decline in foreign reserves

  • With its heavy dependence on imports, food and fuel inflation, and a low production base, the government is struggling to maintain its foreign reserves

  • It has even convinced its top import partners, India and China, to pay for imports in local currency.

  • Second, China is falling short of Male’s expectations

  • Mr. Muizzu’s visit to China in January 2024 saw both countries signing over 20 Memorandum of Understanding

  • There was also agreement to revive the Belt and Road Initiative projects and free trade agreement with China

  • On its part, besides a few strategic investments, Beijing is hesitant to invest in the country’s mega-infrastructure

  • China’s focus is on community development and housing projects, and capacity-building initiatives.

  • While China promised a five years’ debt relief earlier, it is now disclosed that debt relief would complicate the prospects of future borrowing

  • The Chinese Ambassador has also expressed wariness in offering new loans because of Male’s increasing debt burden, declaring that Beijing would assist in the form of grants

  • This has fractured Mr. Muizzu’s hopes of attracting funds and investments from China, which happens through commercial loans, and not grants

  • Third, India’s accommodative policy and fulfilment of Mr. Muizzu’s demands and requests have facilitated this rapprochement

  • This is not to suggest that Mr. Muizzu has embraced a pro-India policy

  • Along with an attempt to deepen partnerships with others, his equation with China remains unchanged

  • Both countries even continue to maintain regular high-level exchanges. 

  • What has perhaps changed is his realising that he cannot completely alienate India and that he would benefit more by balancing and playing one country against the other rather than taking sides

  • As India and China compete and try to outdo each other in the region, Mr. Muizzu is possibly betting on increasing his agency to further the Maldives’ interests


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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: India - Maldives relations UPSC NOTE
India - Maldives relations UPSC NOTE
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