India Maldives Relations UPSC

India Maldives Relations UPSC Why in News ? : India and Maldives sign four MoUs to boost ties

india-myanmar-relations-India Maldives Relations UPSC

Important Inputs

  • India will support Maldives Foreign Minister’s candidature for UNGA Presidency of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly in 2021.
  • Both countries signed four agreements, including a $100 million Indian grant for an ambitious connectivity project.
  • In addition to two MoUs for “high impact” community development projects, the countries signed an MoU on cooperation in sports and youth affairs and another for the $100 million grant, which is part of India’s “$500 million package” for the Greater Male Connectivity Project (GMCP).
  • Last month, the two governments inked a deal for a $400 million line of credit from the Exim Bank of India.
  • Maldives ‘India First’ foreign policy. This is reciprocated in full measure by our ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy in which the Maldives enjoys a very special and central place,


As close and friendly neighbours, India and Maldives share ethnic, linguistic, cultural, religious and commercial links steeped in antiquity and enjoy 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 established its mission at Malé in 1972. Both countries in the past have shared close military and economic cooperation in the region. Joint naval exercises have been conducted in the Indian Ocean and India still contributes to the security of the maritime island.

Bilateral Relation Timeline

1976 Maritime Treaty

  • In December 1976, India and the Maldives signed a maritime boundary treaty, agreed to have explicit maritime boundaries. Minicoy on the Indian side of the boundary.

1981 Comprehensive trade agreement

·         This agreement provides for export of essential commodities between two nations.

·         Under the bilateral agreement, India provides essential food items like rice, wheat flour, sugar, dal, onion, potato and eggs and construction material such as sand and stone aggregates to the Maldives on favorable terms.

1988 Operation Cactus

·         In 1988, in response to a request from the Maldives, India activated Operation Cactus to deploy its military and saved government from militant action.

2014 Male drinking-water crisis and “Operation Neer”

  • In the wake of a drinking water crisis in Malé’ on 4 December 2014, following collapse of the island’s only water treatment plant, Maldives urged India for immediate help.
  • India came to rescue by sending its heavy lift transporters like C-17 Globemaster III, Il-76 carrying bottled water. The navy also sent her ships like INS Sukanya, INS Deepak and others which can produce fresh water using their onboard desalination plants.
  • The humanitarian relief efforts by the Indian side was widely appreciated in Malé across all sections of people even the Vice-President of Maldives thanked the Indian ambassador for swift action

2011-2015 Maldives political crisis

·         Maldives’ first democratically elected President from 2008 to 2012 Mohammed Nasheed, was arrested on 22 February 2015 on terror charges. India and US expressed concern over Nasheed’s arrest and manhandling2020 Covid-19 crisis

Recent Initiative

  • During the Covid-19 crisis of 2020, India extended help to Maldives in the form of financial, material and logistical support.
  • Maldives has been the biggest beneficiary of the Covid-19 assistance given by India among its all of India’s neighbouring countries.
  • India continued to provide crucial commodities to the Maldives under Mission SAGAR Security and Growth for All in the Region was launched in 2015..
  • To further the tourism sector, the operationalisation of the air bubble services was also agreed upon. This is the first-ever project of its form introduced by India for any of its neighbouring countries.
  • In April 2020, India provided $150 million currency swap support to help Maldives mitigate the financial impact of Covid19.
  • ‘Operation Sanjeevani’ – April 2020

•           On the request of Maldivian government, the Indian Air Force airlifted 6.2 tonnes of essential medicines and hospital consumables to Maldives

  • India also dispatched a medical team with essential medicines to help Maldives fight the COVID outbreak as well as supplied essential food grains and edibles despite logistical challenges in wake of lockdown.

India’s engagement with Maldives


  • Bilateral relations have been nurtured and strengthened by regular contacts at all levels. Since establishment of diplomatic relations, almost all Prime Ministers of India visited the Maldives. From the Maldivian side, almost all the president visited India.  There is a regular exchange of high level ministerial visits also.
  • Both nations are founding members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), the South Asian Economic Union and signatories to the South Asia Free Trade Agreement. Indian and Maldivian leaders have maintained high-level contacts and consultations on regional issues
  • India and Maldives have consistently supported each other in multilateral fora such as the UN, the Commonwealth, the NAM and the SAARC.
  • Maldives holds strategic importance for India under the government’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy due to its location in the Indian Ocean.

Development Assistance

  • India’s financial assistance to the Maldives which exceeded 2 billion dollars in totality.
  • Greater Malé Connectivity Project (GMCP) Largest connectivity project – The 500 million USD package was aimed at supporting and fostering the implementation of the “Great Male Connectivity project” in the Maldives.
    • This roadway connectivity will help in rapidly boosting economic activity and help in developing a culture of urbanism in the area, creating further employment opportunities.
  • Direct Cargo Ferry scheme was also planned in order to boost economic relations by reducing transportation cost considerably.


  • Both Defence and security remains a major area of cooperation between India and Maldives. India has adopted remains very accommodative in meeting Maldivian requirements of defence training and equipment.
    • India provides the largest number of training opportunities for Maldivian National Defence Force (MNDF), which is meeting approximately around 70% of their defence training requirements,
    • ‘Ekuverin’ is a joint military exercise between India and Maldives.

Trade and Tourism

  • India is Maldives’ 4th largest trade partner after UAE, China and Singapore. In 2018, India was the 5th largest source of tourist arrivals in the Maldives.

Cultural Relations

  • Both countries share long cultural links. Exchange of cultural troupes takes place regularly between the countries.
  • Three historical mosques (Friday Mosque and DharumavanthaRasgefaanu Mosque – Male’, Fenfushi Mosque – South Ari Atoll) were successfully restored by Indian experts from NRLCCP, Lucknow.
  • Hindi commercial films, TV serials and music are immensely popular in Maldives.
  • The India Cultural Center (ICC), established in Male in July 2011, conducts regular courses in yoga, classical music and dance.

Disaster Management

The India was first country to provide large-scale assistance to Maldives in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and during the 2014 Male water crisis.

Indian Diaspora

There is a significant Indian diaspora in the 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.

China Angle in Indo-Maldives relation

  • Maldives has always been a crucial country strategically due to its geographical presence in the Indian Ocean.
  • With the ongoing rift between India and China, its importance and allegiance to the two big powers in Asia has only increased.
  • Change in political leadership in the Maldives after Mr. Solih became the president has helped India turn to a new chapter in the bilateral relationship. While its predecessor had deliberately drifted away from India and drawn the Maldives closer to China.
  • China has been constantly increasing its infrastructure operations in and around the Indian Ocean and to further its control over the waters, it needed the support of the maritime nations in the region.
  • It is very impetus for India to counter China’s “String of Pearls” in South Asia which aims to ensure the security of its sea lanes, especially the unhindered flow of critically-needed energy supplies from Africa and West Asia through the Indian Ocean.
  • The Maldives, popular for its turquoise waters and vivid beaches, was also at the centre of the Belt and Road Initiative of China to use the region for spreading its own network of supply chains.
  • Debt trap diplomacy and well as the increasing economic ambition of China was and still is a great threat to India’s strategic interests and to its national sovereignty.
  • Maldives is also considering pulling out of the FTA with China.

What is the geo-strategic importance of Maldives to India?

  • Strategic geography defines the geo-strategic importance of Maldives far beyond its physical size.
  • Maldives is one of the world’s most geographically dispersed countries straddling a 960-km-long submarine ridge running north to south and which forms a wall in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

Why is the Maldives Important for India?

  • Maldives is an important member of SAARC.
  • It is strategically located along major sea lanes in the Indian Ocean.
  • A significant portion of world trade takes place through the Indian Ocean. All the energy supplies coming from Gulf nations pass through this area.
  • In the Indian Ocean, Maldives ensures uninterrupted energy supplies to countries like China, Japan, and India.
  • Maldives extended its support for India’s candidature for permanent membership of an expanded and reformed UN Security Council. 
  • The Maldives also support for India’s candidature for a non-permanent seat for the year 2020-21.
  • Blue economy: the Maldives has an intrinsic role in advancing blue economy through sustainable management and utilization of marine resources.
  • India’s interests in the Maldives range from political stability in the neighbourhood, and protection of its investments and trade to the prevention of state and non-state forces which are harmful to Indian interests. 


  • Increase P-2-P contact – to boost historical linkage both countries need to work towards expeditious implementation of people-centric and socio-economic projects.
  • India should carefully re-calibrate its Neighborhood First Policy, so more neighbor can gain confidence and  increase its engagement with India
  • The more India invests in strengthening democratic institutions in its neighbourhood, which will eventually benefits India in long-terms.
  • Strengthen democratic institutions –  It is important to gradually get democratic institutions of Maldives to function constitutionally, with proper checks and balances. To ensure Maldives move away from authoritarianism.
  • Increasing connectivity – through the establishment of enabling infrastructure.
  • Security Provider –  India has remains a net security provider to the Maldives by constantly extending its support, whenever called for.
  • Encourage Tourism industry – Indian can encourage domestic tourism industry to invest in Maldives to boost its economy.

India Maldives Relations UPSC

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