India and Maldives on Wednesday signed MoU for judicial cooperation to accelerate court digitization and boost prospects for IT companies & start-ups in both countries.
Earlier in June, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar interacted with the President of Maldives, Ibu Solih and underlined the broad-based cooperation between India and Maldives that continues to grow at Kigali while he was there to attend the 26th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).
India was among the first to recognise the Maldives after its independence in 1965 and to establish diplomatic relations with the country.
India and Maldives share ethnic, linguistic, cultural, religious and commercial links steeped in antiquity and enjoy close, cordial and multi-dimensional relations. Relations between India and Maldives have been traditionally warm. However, during Abdulla Yameen’s presidency (2013-18), bilateral relations frayed, especially with Maldives’ economic and strategic relations with China growing rapidly.
Despite its small size, the Maldives is currently being wooed by a number of developed and developing countries. Because of the Strategic Importance of the Geographic Location of the Maldives with respect to key International Shipping Lanes (ISLs).
The Indian Ocean is a key highway for global trade and energy flows. The Maldives is geographically positioned like a ‘toll gate’ between the western Indian Ocean chokepoints of the Gulf of Aden and the Strait of Hormuz on the one hand, and the eastern Indian Ocean chokepoint of the Strait of Malacca on the other.
It is extremely important for India’s strength in the blue economy through sustainable management and utilisation of marine resources.
Maldives is important for political stability and security in the Indian Ocean Neighbourhood and the protection of Indian trade and investment.
They have a clear responsibility in maintaining peace and security in the Indian Ocean. India to see Maldives supporting the Pacific strategy of the Quad — a strategic arrangement between India, US, Japan and Australia.
It is key that Maldives treats India as the “first among equals” when it comes to China. When Solih came to power, he categorically said India First policy is my foreign policy.
In 2016, an Action Plan between India and the Maldives was signed for ‘defence cooperation’ to enhance the “shared strategic and security interests of the two countries in the Indian Ocean region”.
This potential must be realised through imaginative foreign policy and maritime-security initiatives. While the recent ‘India-First Policy’ of the Maldives and India’s ‘Neighbourhood First Policy’ are intuitively complementary, the challenge lies in implementing these policies with cultural, geo-economics, and geostrategic sensitivity.