Why is it in the news?
- The Maldives government’s decision not to renew the agreement with India for hydrographic surveys comes in the context of a deal signed in 2019 during the presidency of Ibrahim Solih.
More about the news
- Hydrographic surveys are vital for understanding the features of water bodies, including water depth, seafloor and coastline shape, and the location of potential obstructions. These surveys enhance the efficiency and safety of maritime transportation.
- The joint hydrographic surveys conducted in 2021, 2022, and 2023 aimed to produce updated Navigational Charts/Electronic Navigational Charts for various sectors, such as Tourism, Fisheries, and Agriculture.
- India supported the establishment of Hydrographic facilities within the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF), aligning with its policy to assist the Maldives in strengthening its maritime capabilities.
India’s Historical Involvement in Hydrographic Surveys
- India, through its oldest Hydrographic Survey ship INS Sandhayak, has undertaken over 200 major hydrographic surveys along the Western and Eastern coasts of the Indian peninsula, the Andaman Sea, and in neighbouring countries such as Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and Bangladesh.
- Indian survey ships have played a crucial role in assisting several countries, including Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Maldives, Oman, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, and Tanzania, in conducting hydrographic surveys.
Reasons for non-renewal
- The decision is linked to a change in political leadership, with President Mohamed Muizzu succeeding President Ibrahim Solih. President Muizzu is perceived as being more inclined towards China, in contrast to his predecessor’s favourable stance towards India.
- China’s increasing presence and influence in the Indian Ocean, notably through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), have altered the geopolitical dynamics of the region.
- During the election campaign, President Muizzu emphasized the termination of agreements with foreign countries unless they were beneficial to the Maldives, suggesting a potential re-evaluation of the country’s foreign relations, including with India.
· Early diplomatic ties between India and the Maldives date back to 1965 when the Maldives gained independence from British rule.
· The Maldives holds strategic importance in the Indian Ocean, and India has consistently expressed interest in the stability and security of the region.
· Economic cooperation, defence and security collaboration, capacity building/training for the Maldivian National Defence Force (MNDF), and tourism are key pillars of the India-Maldives relationship.
· In 2021, India became the third-largest trade partner for the Maldives, with bilateral trade crossing the USD 300 million mark.