[Answered] Analyze the recent developments in India-Maldives relations, especially in the context of the changing political landscape in the Maldives. How do these developments impact the strategic and diplomatic ties between the two nations?

Introduction: Give a brief context to the question

Body: How do recent developments in the bilateral relations impact strategic and diplomatic ties between the two nations?

Conclusion: Way forward

The rapid decline in ties between India and the Maldives following PM Modi’s visit to Lakshadweep, and Maldives ministers engaging in negative comments about India and the Prime Minister has sparked numerous celebrities encouraging people to consider exploring domestic tourist destinations rather than traveling to the Maldives.

Recent developments in relations

  • India Out campaign: The ‘India Out’ campaign is a political movement to mobilize people in the Maldives against India. The campaign is against the presence of the Indian military on Maldivian soil.
  • Tourism issue: The Indian PM’s visit to Lakshadweep was seen in Maldives as a challenge to Maldivian tourism, which is well-known for its renowned beachside amenities. The comments about PM were followed by many Indians canceling their holiday bookings in Maldives. The incident underscores the dangers of hypernationalism in the region.
  • Revocation of Hydrographic Survey Agreement: The Maldives has expressed reservations regarding India’s hydrographic activities, viewing them as a potential means of intelligence gathering. The recent move by the Maldives to annul the agreement with India for collaborative hydrographic surveys in its waters has raised concerns within Indian strategic circles.
  • China issue in Indian Ocean Region: Maldives is crucial to China’s “String of Pearls” strategy, with major investments and Belt and Road participation. Tensions with India rose after Maldives’ Free-Trade Agreement with China in 2017. Concerns persist over a possible Chinese naval base in the Maldives, impacting regional dynamics, especially in the Indian Ocean.

How do these developments impact ties between nations?

  • India’s strategic role: India has emerged as a Net Security Provider: as Maldives is part of the Indian government’s priorities under the ‘Neighbourhood First Policy. Both nations are key players in maintaining the safety and security of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), thus contributing to India-led Security And Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR) vision.
  • Tourism Economy: India ranks as one of the primary contributors to the tourist influx in the Maldives, a country heavily reliant on tourism to sustain its economy. The recent developments could impact Indian investment in key sectors in the Maldives, such as tourism, fisheries, renewable energy, and infrastructure.
  • Geo-strategic relations: Maldives has been a partner of India in many regional groupings. Maldives is a member of the Colombo Security Conclave (CSC), Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), SAARC, SASEC, and SAGAR initiative of India. The recent development could adversely impact this relationship and move the Maldives closer to China.
  • People-to-people ties: There is a sizeable Indian Diaspora in Maldives. Numerous Indians are employed in Maldives’ education, medical care systems, tourism, and hospitality sectors. The ongoing tussle between the nations could impact the cultural and social linkages between the people of both nations.

Conclusion

Regardless of any controversy, the lasting regional and geopolitical significance of India emphasizes the Maldives’ commitment to prioritizing relations with New Delhi. The key lies in aligning India’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy with the Maldives’ ‘India First’ approach, fostering a synergistic and mutually beneficial partnership.

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