As I Pen down my thoughts after a while, sipping my filter Coffee, in my Hometown Namma Chennai, would like to start my Article with a quote, from my Role Model, Philosopher, & indeed Nations Greatest Son, Swami Vivekananda—
“Each work has to Pass through these stages—ridicule, Opposition, & then Acceptance. Those who think ahead of their time are sure to be misunderstood”.
As we all know, India was the only country Invited at the Head of State/ Government Level. Ibrahim Mohamed Solih took oath as the new President of Maldives on Saturday in the Presence of 17 foreign Dignitaries, & representative from 46 Countries, including Prime MinisterNarendra Modi. The New President Mr. Solih Promised an “India First Policy, & his team is reviewing millions of Dollars worth of Investment from China- as well as debt & how to restructure it to reduce its dependence on the Chinese.
Before I go into the details, Friends, I would like to give you all an Overview about Maldives in South Asia. Maldives is a Tropical Nation, in Indian Ocean composed of 26 ring-shaped, a toll, which are made up of more than 1,000 coral Islands. It’s known for its beaches, blue Lagoons & Extensive reefs. The Capital, Male has a busy fish Market, restaurants& shops on the Main Road,Majeedhee Magu, & 17th Century Hukuru Miskiy (also known as Friday Mosque).
Before I go into the details, I would like to give you all the details about “The China Maldives Connection”—India’s influence in its neighbourhood was dealt a stunning blow recently with Maldives entering into a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China. The FTA,which was agreed & signed on December 8th, 2017, during Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen’s four-day Visit to Beijing, is Maldives first with any country. Maldives has become the second south Asian Country after Pakistan to sign an FTA with China. In addition to the FTA, Maldives also indulged into an Agreement of MoU, that brings it into the Maritime Silk Road, a Component of China’s ambitious Belt & Road Initiative (BRI).
Strategic Significance of Maldives With India— Maldives is located 700Km from India’s Lakshadweep island chain & around 1,200 Km, from the Indian Mainland. Relations with Maldives for India, goes back several decades. The relationship grew in the decades following Maldives independence from British Colonial rule in 1965, & Strengthened in 1980s, & 1990s. India played a crucial r0ole in building Maldives economy, & ensuring Political stability there. It supported the authoritarian rule of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, a half-brother of the current President, & enable him to remain in power for three decades. It also dispatched troops to oust Gayoom in 1998. India’s Influence over Maldives began fraying after former President Mohammed Nasheed, who was perceived as, India Friendly, was forced to resign in February 2012. An Agreement, signed by India’s GMR Infrastructure, under Nasheed’s tenure for upgrading Male Airport was abruptly terminated by his successor in November 2012. The Contract was subsequently awarded to a state-owned Chinese Economy. After Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the Archipalego in September 2014.Chinas Presence in Maldives Tourism & Infrastructure Building Expanded. The FTA & BRI increased the Chinese role in the Maldivian Economy. However, the FTA with China & the manner in which Yameen rushed it through Parliament came in for sharp Criticism. Despite requests from Opposition MPs they were not given access to Documents in order to review it before it was passed. The Oppositions charge was that the Government allowed for less than an hour for the entire Parliamentary Process to approve the 1,000 plus page document”. The FTA’s were also warning of a looming Chinese DEBT TRAP. It was surprising to see that more than 70% of Maldives Current Foreign Debt is owed to China, on which the loan interest alone was more than 20%, of Maldives Budget. It Gave Beijing more Leverage over Maldives, Undermining the Country’s, sovereignty & Independence. The same scenario is also prevalent in Sri Lanka. Some of the Projects such as Hambantota Port & an Airport nearby, not attracting enough business & unable to repay the roughly $8bn owed China, the cash-strapped Sri Lankan Government agreed to hand over Hambantota port to china on a 99-year lease as a way of paying down some of the debt, how atrocious, isn’t it? A Similar scenario can be witnessed in Pakistan, where CPEC, a flagship venture of BRI, will leave Islamabad with an estimated debt of $90Billion that it will have to repay China over the next 30 Years. Pakistan has already handed over the operation of Gwadar port to China for a period of 40 Years.
In 2015, Maldivian Parliament enacted a law that allows foreigners to own land in Maldives provided they invest over $1 Billion in a Project, & 70% of the Project site is on reclaimed land. In August 2017, Maldives Permitted three Chinese warships to dock in Male.
Now let’s analyse the facts, what has “Maldives Win” in store for?
As we all know that tussle for dominance has ended, in Maldives, at least for the time being. Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, became the New President of Maldives on 17rh of November 2018, after the opposition unity dislodged the Pro-China strongman Abdullah Yameen in September Elections. PM Modi as the highest-ranking visitor at the inauguration ceremony of the new President Mohd.Solih in Maldives & with the defeat of Abdullah Yameen-India is hoping to regain lost ground. Solih has Promised an “India First Policy”, & his team is reviewing millions of Dollar’s worth of Investments from China—as well as debt & How to restructure it to reduce its dependence on the Chinese. Mohd.Solih Tries to take stock of the situation, hopes to get 200 to 300 Million from friendly Nations -like India, Saudi Arabia, & US to pay back China, its whopping US 1.5billion of debt—which is more than a quarter of the Country’s Gross Domestic Product.
As We all know, in Maldives, Chinese very much the stakeholder, Let’s Analyse How will Maldives Pay back the Debt?
In 2018, The Chinese have completed a mile-long China -Maldives friendship bridge which connects the airport on one island to the Capital on another. The Chinese are also expanding the airport itself. The Airport Development is an especially a sore point with India after Maldivian Government deal with India’s GMR Infrastructure & later gave the contract to Beijing. The Chinese also owns many Lagoons & Islands with Maldives archipelago. It will at least take a year to get rid of the Chinese influence, & many of these deals are enveloped in Secrecy. Yes, India as a Samaritan is willing to help & has also in the Past provided a US$75MN, credit line of which a third had been utilised. We also see that there is also a currency swap agreement, between the two Nations, & defence deals, which have been several recent setbacks under the Yameen administration who withdrew agreements, & also sent back Indian Military helicopters as well. The Strategic Point of view, is that India will hope to get back some of those key Defence agreements& most importantly get access to key Ports & Islands which are of Strategic significance to India. So, Congress, which tried to create Negative & Doctored Narratives of India & Maldives relationship has been put to rest, by the swearing in of Mohd. Solid & most Importantly PM Modi is the only Invitee as the Head of the State to be Invited for the Swearing in ceremony.
Why Maldives Win is very Significant for India?
President Mohd.Solih, especially after the oath-taking ceremony, the only country Solih Specifically mentioned, was India. During his Address to the Nation, Mohd. Solih, after the Oath-taking ceremony, the only country Solih specifically mentioned was India. “We will endeavour to fortify existing ties with India & Maldives will hereupon, bolster its shared role to retain enduring peace & harmony of the Indian Ocean”, he said. PM Modi was very well greeted by newly elected President Mohd. Solih, in his office. A joint statement was also released which stressed the fact- “resilience of relations between India & Maldives”. & both Heads of the state expressed Confidence in the renewal of closer ties of bilateral co-operation & Friendship with Election of Mr. Solih as the President of Maldives. Both the leaders also urged the need for facilitating easier visa Proceedures. Under outgoing President Yameen, People to people ties had suffered, with Indians are the second largest expatriate community in the Maldives with an approximate strength of around 22,000.
Mr. Solihbriefed PM on the dire economic situation caused by yesteryears Government of Yameen, & both the leaders discussed ways in which India can continue the development Partnerships. Mr. Solih also highlighted the Pressing need for increased housing & Infrastructure, Development as well as for establishing water & sewage Systems in the outlying Islands. But our PM Modi however, assured all assistance possible Male in Achieving sustainable Social & Economic development He also conveyed India’s readiness to extend help to every possible way & Suggested that both sides meet at the earliest to work out details as per Maldives requirements. Our PM Modi also extended the Invitation to President Solih, to make a State Visit to India at his earliest Convenience.
In My Conclusion, I would like to stress an important yet Significant Paradigm shift brought about by Modi Sarkar is that of his Geo-Political strategization through a Neighbour friendly Policy, especially, when Congress tried to show the Current Establishment, in Negative Picture, Now where are those Naysayers inside our Nation who kept on Ranting Doctored Narratives on India-Maldives relationships, as now the time is to Congratulate PM Modi for having been invited for the Oath-taking ceremony by Mohd.Solih @ Maldives, as he was the only Head of the State to be Invited for this Swearing Ceremony. What I find is that India Under PM Modi has a 360-degree Approach towards maintaining Geo-Political Relationships with all the Nations in the world, PM Modi has Rescripted India’s Geo-Political strategizationfrom Narrow lane approach towards A broader Spectrum with Far-sighted Vision, which was followed these many years. PM Modi disagreed with Advanced Economies, as President Donald Trump openly exclaims” PM Modi is a very good Friend of Mine, but a Hard Negotiator, which was visible in COMCASA Agreement, & Trade Ties with US, moving away from Protectionism, &actively engaging with Saudi Arabia & Getting A Supply Promise, the easening of Sanctions to Iran by US, which led top decline in crude Prices. You can refer to my earlier articles, how India has achieved the balance which was brought to Diplomacy in our Foreign Policy while dealing with the traditional global Power Nations. Friends, I have written in Detailed Articles on Various Nations, from Rafale Deal, India & Russia-of inking S-400 Missile system, BIMSTEC Nations, India’s Strategic dealing with China, India which stood against One RoadOne Belt initiative, CPEC, India registered its protest to the road which passes through PoK occupied Jammu& Kashmir in my Website WWW.Sukanyatalks.in
Now India is in a Stronger yet healthy Position in scripting a competitive Environment where India had made an Indelible mark for itself, by Spacing out an Indigenous space for Defence ties or any other Multilateral Ties with other Nations, & World Recognises India as a Global force to reckon with since Modi Sarkar took over from 2014 to 2018, which has looked into many aspects of Geo-Political aspects which were overlooked by Yesteryears Government of UPA regime headed by Economist PM Manmohan Singh, this shows that A Chaiwaala has gone & Scripted history in taking our Nation to greater Heights through his Honest Intent & convictions clear, as Congress always takes a Sarcastic Jibe on our PM Modi who is a Global leader which world Applauds for taking our Economy from Shambles to Stability through his spree of Bold & structuralReforms. Friends, I hereby say that save this Article, here is our workaholic PM who will create History in 2019, to get elected for 2nd term as PM of world’s largest democratic Nation-HINDUSTAN
PM Modi with you in all your Endeavours, India Needs your leadership for next term, as the seed of Vikas sown by yourself will bear fruits from 2019.
Hum Honge Kaamyaab – India with Modi for 2019
Dr. Sukanya Iyer
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