India Maldives relations at a glance

As the President of Maldives, Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, is on a two-day visit to New Delhi, these are the five things you should know about India's relationship with the Indian Ocean island.

Updated - March 25, 2017 10:05 am IST

Published - April 11, 2016 12:52 pm IST

As the President of Maldives, Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, is on a two-day visit to New Delhi, these are the five things you should know about India's relationship with the Indian Ocean island.

Yameen's agenda in the India tour

President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, who has embarked a >two-day visit to New Delhi , is expected to sign a counter-terror pact with India. Maldives recently arrested 40 of its nationals, who were reportedly fighting alongside the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

Mr. Yameen and the Indian government may also sign a double-tax avoidance agreement. India is in the process of signing DTAA with various countries, which are perceived to be tax havens in order to check the flow of blackmoney.

India's change in policy towards the Maldives a little after >Prime Minister Narendra Modi skipped Maldives in his Indian Ocean region tour has helped to thaw relations. India has been largely silent on the major assault on democratic institutions and the Opposition in the archipelego nation, while most countries which have a stake in the region, including the US, UK, and the European Union, have condemned the Yameen Government's transgressions.

A friend in need

Indian Army's 'Operation Cactus' foiled a coup in Maldives that was attempted by a pro-Eelam group in 1988. India maintains a naval presence in Maldives, at the request of the Maldives, since 2009 . President Yameen, in an interview had said, "If they [Indian Army] had not come to our rescue, we would have lost independence during the past 50 years."

Indian Coast Guard's Dornier was the first to land at the Ibrahim Nasir Airport with relief and supplies after the tsunami of December 26, 2004.

Maldives has pledged its support to India as a permanent member of an expanded UN Security Council.

On December 5, 2014, India dispatched “ >water aid ” to the Maldivian capital of Male, after a fire destroyed the generator of its biggest water treatment plant.

Maldives growing "closeness" with China

India is uneasy with Maldives's relationship with China. There were media reports that China was looking to establish a base in Maldives after leasing out one of the islands under the liberalised leasing scheme brought in by the Yameen Government, which was denied by both Male and Beijing. The country's former President Mohamed Nasheed has more than once even >commented on Maldives' 'pro-China' tilt.

China is assisting Maldives in some infrastructure and developmental projects, including a bridge between the island in which the airport is located, Hulhumale, and the Capital island, Male, which is about 10 minutes by a passenger ferry. Maldives is also part of China's Silk Road project, a move that has not gone down well in New Delhi. The President's Office, has however, repeatedly clarified that China policy does not interfere with or diminish the country’s “special relationship” with India.

Turbulent Maldivian politics

Ever since Nasheed, the first democratically-elected President of Maldives, was made to step down after a series of events that has been described in some quarters as a coup, the Indian Ocean archipelago is witnessing political tussles. Nasheed >had taken refuge at Indian High Commission once, fearing arrest under the regime of his successor and former Vice President, Mohamed Waheed.

Also read: >Maldives: coup and after

India had assisted Maldives' election process by sending its observers, and had also withdrawn observers at one point because the electoral process was neither free nor fair.

Maldivian government took several steps to bolster Mr. Yameen's authority such as >removal of Chief Justice , police chiefs and arrest of Vice President and former Defence Minister. These incidents earned widespread condemnations from various countries, including India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi >skipped Maldives in his Indian Ocean tour.

GMR issue

Relations between India and Maldives came under a strain after Male had terminated the agreement it entered into with GMR in 2010 for the modernisation of the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport. The airport was taken over by the Maldives Airports Company Limited after a high-voltage legal tussle in which GMR.Maldives government maintains the reason for cancellation of the project was because "the contract was illegally awarded" by the then President Nasheed. The country's anti-graft watchdog has ruled out any corruption in the leasing of the international airport to GMR. The airport expansion project was subsequently given to the Chinese company, which will plough in US $ 800 million. GMR, meanwhile, has won an arbitration against the Maldives. The quantum of damages to be paid by the Maldives is yet to announced by the arbitration tribunal in Singapore.

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