Maldives is a small archipelagic state in the Indian subcontinent of Asia, situated in the Indian Ocean. It lies southwest of Sri Lanka and India, about 700 kilometres (430 mi) from the Asian continent's mainland.
The maritime boundary between the Maldives and India runs through the Eight Degree Channel. It separates the islands of Minicoy and Maldives.
The chain of 26 atolls stretches from Ihavandhippolhu Atoll in the north to Addu Atoll in the south (across the Equator).
Comprising a territory spanning roughly 90,000 square kilometres (35,000 sq mi) including the sea, land area of all the islands comprises 298 square kilometres (115 sq mi), Maldives is one of the world's most geographically dispersed sovereign states as well as the smallest Asian country by land area and, with around 557,426 inhabitants, the 2nd least populous country in Asia.
Malé is the capital and the most populated city, traditionally called the "King's Island" where the ancient royal dynasties ruled for its central location.
The Maldivian Archipelago is located on the Chagos-Laccadive Ridge, a vast submarine mountain range in the Indian Ocean; this also forms a terrestrial ecoregion, together with the Chagos Archipelago and Lakshadweep.
Historical Background of Maldives
In the 12th century Islam reached the Maldivian Archipelago, which was consolidated as a sultanate, developing strong commercial and cultural ties with Asia and Africa.
From the mid-16th-century the region came under the increasing influence of European colonial powers, with Maldives becoming a British protectorate in 1887.
Independence from the United Kingdom came in 1965, and a presidential republic was established in 1968 with an elected People's Majlis. The ensuing decades have seen political instability, efforts at democratic reform, and environmental challenges posed by climate change.
Maldives was a member of the Commonwealth from July 1982 until withdrawing from the Commonwealth in October 2016 in protest at allegations by the other nations of its human rights abuses and failing democracy. The Maldives rejoined the Commonwealth on 1 February 2020 after showing evidence of functioning democratic processes and popular support.
It is also a member of the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, and the Non-Aligned Movement.
The World Bank classifies the Maldives as having an upper-middle income economy.
Fishing has historically been the dominant economic activity, and remains the largest sector by far, followed by the rapidly growing tourism industry.
Maldives rate "high" on the Human Development Index, with per-capita income significantly higher than other SAARC nations.
Maldives relations with India
India and Maldives share ethnic, linguistic, cultural, religious and commercial links steeped in antiquity and enjoy close, cordial and multi-dimensional relations.
India was among the first to recognise Maldives after its independence in 1965 and to establish diplomatic relations with the country.
India established its mission at the level of CDA in 1972 and resident High Commissioner in 1980.
Maldives opened a full fledged High Commission in New Delhi in November 2004, at that time one of its only four diplomatic missions worldwide.
1967 Maritime Treaty
In December 1976, India and the Maldives signed a maritime boundary treaty to agree on maritime boundaries.
Treaty explicitly places Minicoy on the Indian side of the boundary.
India and Maldives officially and amicably decided their maritime boundary in 1976.
1981 Comprehensive Trade Agreement
In 1981, India and Maldives signed a comprehensive trade agreement.
Both nations are founding members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), the South Asian Economic Union and signatories to the South Asia Free Trade Agreement.
Indian and Maldivian leaders have maintained high-level contacts and consultations on regional issues.
Previous India’s Assistance to Maldives (PT SHOTS)
1988: Under Operation Cactus the Indian Armed Forces have helped the government of Maldives in the neutralization of the coup attempt.
2004: India has helped Maldives after the tsunami.
2014: Under 'Operation Neer' India supplied drinking water to Maldives to deal with the drinking water crisis.
The two Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH) given by India to the Maldivian armed forces have been used in saving Maldivian lives. The Advanced Light Helicopter is a multi-role, new generation helicopter in the 5.5-ton weight class, indigenously designed and developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
India provides the largest number of training opportunities for Maldivian National Defence Force (MNDF), meeting around 70% of their defence training requirements.
In April 2006 Indian Navy gifted a Trinkat Class Fast Attack Craft of 46 m length to Maldives National Defence Force's Coast Guard.
‘Ekuverin’ is a joint military exercise between India and Maldives.
Disaster Management: The Government of India has provided large-scale assistance to Maldives in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and during the 2014 Male water crisis.
Trade and Tourism: India is Maldives’ 4th largest trade partner after UAE, China and Singapore. In 2018, India was the 5th largest source of tourist arrivals in Maldives.
The Maldivian economy is heavily dependent on its tourism sector, which is the major source of foreign exchange earnings and government revenue.
India supplied 6.2 tonnes of essential medicines to Maldives, under Operation Sanjeevani as assistance in the fight against COVID 19.
The medicines were delivered by an Hercules C-130J-30 aircraft of Indian Air Force.
The medicines include influenza vaccines, antiviral drugs such as lopinavir and ritonavir among others as well as consumables such as catheters, nebulisers, urine bags and infant feeding tubes.
Lopinavir and ritonavir have been used to treat patients with COVID-19 in some countries.
In March India also dispatched a 14-member Army medical team to Maldives to set up a viral testing lab there and gifted 5.5 tonne of essential medicines.
Maldives signs largest-ever infrastructure project with AFCONS
The contract for the largest-ever infrastructure project in the Maldives was signed in Male.
The Greater Male Connectivity Project ( GMCP) will consist of a 6.74-km-long bridge and causeway link between Male and the nearby islands of Villingli, Gulhifalhu and Thilafushi. Indian construction giant AFCONS has been tasked with completing the project.
AFCONS is known for its “extreme engineering” projects that also include the Chenab Railway Bridge.
The project is funded by a grant of $100 million and a line of credit of $400 million from India.
The GMCP project would be bigger than the Sinamale Bridge built with Chinese assistance that connects Male with Hulhumale and Hulhule and was completed in 2018.
The Greater Malé Connectivity Project supports the vision of Prime Minister Modi and President Solih for strong bilateral relations.
The seeds of the project were planted during the External Affairs Minister’s visit to Malé in September 2019.
Significance of GMCP
The GMCP is concrete proof that India is a robust development partner of the Maldives in addition to being the First Responder in times of any emergency in the Maldives.
The GMCP is not only the biggest project India is doing in the Maldives but also the biggest infrastructure project in the Maldives overall. This iconic project will give a major boost to the Maldivian economy.
This project is significant because it facilitates inter-island connectivity in the country. Transport is a major challenge for residents who have to take boats or seaplanes to distant islands. Locals take ferries or boats. It becomes even more difficult during the monsoons when the seas are rough. This bridge that would connect Malé with the three neighbouring islands would ease the process.