New Delhi: India has announced an aid of $500 million for the ‘Greater Male Connectivity Project’ (GMCP) in the Maldives. The President of Maldives specially thanked the Indian Prime Minister for the aid, whereas, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi assured that similar cooperation would continue even in the future. Comparing the depth of the Indian Ocean to the India-Maldives relations, the Prime Minister underlined the strength of the bilateral relationship.
On Thursday, a virtual meeting was held, between the Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar and Maldives’ Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid. India announced the aid for the GMCP during this meeting. Under the GMCP project, the Maldivian capital of Male will be connected to the three other islands. Bridges to connect Male to Villingili, Thilafushi and Gulhifahu islands spanning 6.7 km, will be built. This will improve connectivity. Maldivian Foreign Minister expressed confidence that along with strengthening the India-Maldives relations, the aid will also provide an impetus to the Maldivian economy.
The Air Travel Bubble between India and Maldives also has been announced. India has started such a service for the first time, with any of its neighbouring countries. This will facilitate the citizens of both the countries to avail medical treatment, employment and tourism. Direct Cargo Ferry services will be started between India and Maldives. This will increase bilateral trade. The Cargo Ferry will also save time and money. This was discussed during the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of both the countries.
Attention was specially drawn to the fact that the India-Maldives relations remained strong even during the Coronavirus crisis. Foreign Minister Jaishankar assured that India will always stand behind its marine friend, in the times of crisis. The Maldivian economy has collapsed during the Coronavirus crisis. Under the Mission Sagar campaign, India had supplied the Maldives with 580 tonnes of essential commodities. Prime Minister Modi assured that India will continue to assist the Maldives during these Coronavirus crisis.
In 2018, after Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, took over as the President of Maldives, the political relations between India and Maldives became stronger. In the last one and a half years, Prime Minister Modi and President Solih have met seven times. President of Maldives will be visiting India again, by the end of this year. Against this background, this virtual meeting and the aid become significant.
China is trying to increase its influence in the India dominated India Ocean region. The government, before the Solih government had increased closeness with China and taken a few decisions against the Indian interests. But the scenario has changed in the last two years and the cooperation between the two countries is becoming important.