Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on Thursday expressed confidence in India's leadership to promote diplomacy and dialogue, as he congratulated Prime Minister Narendra Modi after India formally assumed the Presidency of G20.
"Congratulations to PM Narendra Modi, the government, and the people of India on India assuming the Presidency of G20. I have every confidence in India's leadership to promote diplomacy and dialogue to build consensus and find enduring solutions to pressing issues in global affairs," President Solih tweeted.
As India assumed the Presidency of the G20, Male's support doesn't come as a surprise as bilateral relations between the two countries extend to many areas and are free of politically contentious issues.
Maldives is located very close to the western coast of India, about 70 nautical miles away from Minicoy. Its position at the hub of commercial sea lanes running through the Indian Ocean endows it with strategic importance to India.
Decades ago, India had claimed authority over Minicoy Island, which the Maldives conceded in 1976. India is currently seen as a net provider of security, a role which in the Maldives is well-recognized.
According to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), India's military assistance during the attempted coup of 1988 was instrumental in building trust. What was beneficial was the prompt withdrawal of the Indian forces when their services were no longer required. It went a long way in pre-empting concerns about India's territorial ambitions in the Maldives.
Moreover, India was also the first to come to the aid of Maldives during the 2004 Tsunami and the drinking water shortage in Male in Dec 2014. These three episodes (1988, 2004, and 2014) indisputably established the benefits of India's proximity and capacity to help Maldives in times of distress.
More recently, in January 2020, India dispatched 30,000 vials of measles vaccine for an outbreak in the Maldives. Soon afterward, India offered comprehensive and rapid assistance to the Maldives during the COVID-19 pandemic.
These developments have reinforced India's credentials as the first responder whenever the Maldives face a significant crisis. The government and the people of the Maldives widely acknowledge these humanitarian gestures. It is no wonder, therefore, that the incumbent Government of Maldives (GoM) has boldly adopted an India First policy.
Prime Minister Modi, in November 2018, attended the swearing-in ceremony of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih as the only Head of State. They held bilateral discussions immediately after the ceremony, during which the Prime Minister communicated India's desire to work closely for the speedy and effective realization of Maldives' developmental priorities, especially in infrastructure, health care, connectivity, and human resource development. India was the destination for the first overseas visit of President Solih after assuming office. His State Visit to India in Dec 2018 saw India announce a financial assistance package of USD 1.4 billion. Several infrastructure projects have since started rolling out, with two already under execution.
More recently, in March 2022, a third project was awarded, and its implementation is due to commence shortly. President Solih, in April 2019, visited Bengaluru to see the IPL match between Royal Challengers Bangalore and Chennai Super Kings and to observe the facilities at the national cricket academy there.
In addition, he held discussions about the development of cricket in the Maldives and strengthening the Maldivian cricket team. Likewise, the Maldives was the first destination of PM Modi on his first overseas visit since assuming office for his second term. During that visit in June 2019, the Indian PM also addressed a session of the Legislature of the Maldives.
In addition, several MoUs about cooperation and collaboration in domains such as hydrography, healthcare, cargo service by sea, customs capacity building, governance practice, and shipping were signed.
On the defence front, India follows a flexible and accommodating approach in making provisions for Maldives' defence equipment and training requirements. The two countries signed a comprehensive Action Plan for Defence in 2016 to consolidate their defence partnership.
India has trained over 1400 Maldivian National Defence Forces trainees over the past ten years and offered 300 training vacancies (including SPG, NSG, and MIO training) in 2021- 22. India has been the largest development partner of Maldives as well. The Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital in Male was built with Indian Grant Assistance in 1995.