India, which is celebrating 75 years since its independence from British rule, is Maldives’ oldest ally. It’s not just one or two reasons why the country is of such importance to Maldives. Peace and security in India, which Maldives shares the same ocean with, is of vital importance to this small island nation. Due to geographical proximity, shared culture and values, strong people-to-people exchanges, and the extent to which both countries need each other’s aid, each and every threat to India is a threat to Maldives.
Since long back, India has been the first to extend a helping hand every time Maldives in times of need. India had been the one to aid Maldives when the Tamil Tigers from Sri Lanka invaded the country and launched the deadly terror attack on November 3, 1988. When the Tamil Tigers martyred Maldivians and attempted to flee the country on a ship with hostages, India had stopped the militants and rescued the hostages. Scores of Indian soldiers had remained stationed in Maldives for a long time after, to strengthen security in the country and prevent a second attack.
India is also a significant partner in infrastructure development and human resource development in Maldives. At a time when Maldives lacked adequate healthcare services, India gifted a hospital to the country. IGMH, which remains the country’s main state hospital, was gifted by Indian government in 1995. India aided in construction of the hospital as well as in providing resources. Polytechnic and Faculty of Tourism Studies were also constructed with aid from India. The Police Academy in Addu was built with aid from India. India continues to aid Maldives in developing human resources in various areas, and in providing training and education.
Many of the ongoing projects in Maldives are being carried out with aid from India. When President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih travelled to India in his first state visit since assuming office, India pledged a financial aid package of USD 1.4 billion. It also offered 1,000 scholarships for five years. Projects are being run across Maldives under the USD 800 million line of credit offered under the financial aid package, and the Thilamale’ Bridge is being built with a USD 400 million line of credit and a USD 100 million grant.
Other projects being run with aid from India includes key projects such as the development of roads in Addu, the re-development of the Hanimaadhoo International Airport as part of the USD 800 million line of credit – later expanded to MVR 900 million, the construction of a cancer hospital in L. Gan, and 45 high-impact local community development projects and cash grant projects. India was the first country to donate vaccines to Maldives during the Covid-19 pandemic. It had donated 100,000 vaccines, helping Maldives kick-off its immunization drive.
The people-to-people exchanges between Maldives and India are worth mention. India’s assistance is evident when looking at the health professionals and school teachers who work in Maldives. India is also a key partner when it comes to Maldives’ main economic pillar – the tourism industry. India has been the top source market for tourist arrivals to Maldives since 2020. Maldives saw 1 million tourist arrivals by mid-August this year – over 14 percent of whom came from India.
IMPORTANT TO MAINTAIN RELATIONS
Bilateral relations with India, Maldives’ closest neighbor, doesn’t stem from a particular Maldivian leader. And the relations don’t need to end because of a particular leader who assumes office. It’s a bond between the people of the two countries that has lasted for ages. It is therefore important to maintain the relations.
President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih describes India as a true friend to Maldives. He says the continued assistance in infrastructure development, human resource development, and defense and security deserves gratitude.
He has provided assurance Maldives will always remain a true friend to India, and will maintain the shared vision for peace and development in the region.
There’s no cause to harbor animosity towards a particular country, especially not towards a country that is of such significant importance to Maldives as India. Things that could disrupt the cordial relations between the two countries must not be pursued. Good relations between Maldives and India are crucial to peace and security in the Indian Ocean. On India’s Independence Day, Maldivians must remember the importance of relations between the two countries, and accept the assistance from India with a grateful heart.