Maldives- India relations

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This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.


Why India cherishes its ties with Maldives

February 7, 2018: The Times of India

December 26, 2017: The Times of India


India has said it is "disturbed" over the situation in Maldives and has added that its Armed forces are on standby for any contingency. Sources said troop movement has been seen at a key air-base in southern India. Here are 10 reasons why Maldives is important for India

1. 1) Location, location location. The Maldives's location on the Indian Ocean makes it a nation of concern to India+ especially as regional rival China is trying to expand its sphere of influence in those waters. The Maldives is located near important sea routes in the Indian Ocean - close to the Gulf of Aden and the Straits of Malacca. Almost all main trade routes to the broader region pass by the Maldives; most of the energy supplies from the Middle East are transported along these routes.

Strategically located in the Indian Ocean, Maldives archipelago comprising 1,200 coral islands lies next to key shipping lanes which ensure uninterrupted energy supplies to countries like China, Japan and India.

2. Since China started to send naval ships to Indian Ocean roughly 10 years ago — and right up to Gulf of Aden in the name of antipiracy operations — Maldives' significance has steadily grown and now it's at the heart of international geopolitics.

As it is, the Maldives has signed a Free Trade Agreement with Beijing, without taking the country's opposition, or even its citizenry, into confidence. This worries the mandarins in South Block as well as the opposition in the Maldives.

Adding to that worry is the fact that the archipelago already owes almost 70% of its debt to China, raising fears it will be completely under Beijing's thumb, much like Pakistan is.

If that happens, India fears being encircled by Chinese-influenced vassals. As it is, Sri Lanka's decision to hand over the Hambantota port to China on a 99-year lease has caused some consternation in Indian diplomatic circles.

3. As the pre-eminent South Asian power and a 'net security provider' in the Indian Ocean region, India needs to cooperate with Maldives in security and defence sectors.

4. China's massive economic presence in Maldives is a major concern for India. With the country now said to owe 70% of its external aid to China, many believe that Yameen has done to Maldives what Rajapaksa did to Sri Lanka. India had to push back at some stage and the current political crisis might just have offered India the right opportunity.

5. A large section of population which supports the opposition parties like Nasheed's MDP wants India to act against Yameen.

6. Maldives is also a member of Saarc. It is important for India to have Maldives on board to maintain its leadership in the region. Maldives was the only Saarc country which seemed reluctant to follow India's call for boycott of Saarc summit in Pakistan after the Uri attack.

7. Under Yameen, radicalisation grew rapidly and it was often said that archipelago accounted for one of the highest numbers of foreign fighters in Syria in terms of per capita. India can ill-afford a neighbour which fails to check Islamic radicalisation.

The Maldives's Abdulla Yameen government hasn't done much to inspire confidence in India, as it has shown scant regard for India's security-related concerns, despite the country's professed 'India First' policy.

8. India and Maldives share ethnic, linguistic, cultural, religious and commercial links. India was among the first to recognise Maldives after its independence in 1965 and later established its mission at Male in 1972.

9. There are 25,000 Indian nationals living in Maldives (second largest expatriate community). Indian tourists also account for close to 6% of tourists Maldives receives every year.

10. India is also a preferred destination for Maldivians for education, medical treatment, recreation and business. According to MEA, more and more Maldivians are seeking long term visa for pursuing higher studies/medical treatment in India.

1988: Operation Cactus

Operation Cactus: How Indian troops went to Maldives and helped quell a coup, February 7, 2018: The Times of India


The current political crisis in Maldives has prompted India to put its military on standby to ensure "deployment at short notice"

30 years ago, in 1988, an intervention by the Indian armed forces - codenamed 'Operation Cactus' - trounced an attempted coup on the island nation

The current political crisis in neighbouring Maldives has prompted India to put its military on standby to ensure "deployment at short notice" and in anticipation of an "eventuality."

If the armed forces receive the go ahead, this will not be the first time they come to the island nation's rescue.

30 years ago, in 1988, a Maldivian group led by Abdullah Luthufi attempted to overthrow the government in Maldives. The group was aided by armed mercenaries of the People's Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE), a Sri Lankan Tamil secessionist organisation.

The intervention by Indian armed forces - codenamed 'Operation Cactus' - trounced the attempted coup.


More than 60 of PLOTE's mercenaries landed in the Maldivian capital of Male and soon gained control of the city. Then-President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who was able to escape capture, requested military intervention from several countries, including India.

Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi responded to Gayoom's call, dispatching paratroopers and naval warships to the island nation.

Operation Cactus started on the night of 3 November 1988, hours after the request for intervention.

The Indian paratroopers rescued the President and soon returned control of the capital to the Maldivian government. Some of the mercenaries were captured and handed over to the government.

David Brewster, a Visiting Fellow at the Australian National University, notes that "India received international praise for the operation," in 'India's Ocean: The story of India's bid for regional leadership'. The book's extract, published on the website of an independent think-tank, adds that President Reagan appreciated India's decisive action in the matter.


The current crisis in the country was spurred by the Maldivian Supreme Court's order last week, directing the immediate release of nine opposition leaders, including exiled former president Mohammed Nasheed, and their retrials. In its order, the court said that the prisoners' 'guilty' verdicts had been "influenced" by the government.

The ruling may have allowed Nasheed, who was Maldives' first democratically elected president, to challenge President Abdulla Yameen when he seeks re-election later this year.

The court also ordered the reinstatement of 12 MPs, who had been ousted for switching allegiance to the opposition. With their return, President Yameen's Progressive Party of the Maldives will lose its majority in the 85-member Parliament.

However, President Yameen showed no inclination to implement the order, even as the apex court on Sunday categorically asked that the ruling be complied with.

Instead, Yameen declared a state of emergency+ and got Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and another judge, Ali Hameed arrested. The remaining three judges of the Supreme Court revoked the release order, "in light of the concerns raised by the President".

India, which is monitoring the situation very "closely",+ said it was "disturbed" at the declaration of the emergency by the island nation's government. It called the arrests a matter of "concern".

"We are disturbed by the declaration of a State of Emergency in the Maldives following the refusal of the government to abide by the unanimous ruling of the full bench of the Supreme Court on February 1, and also by the suspension of constitutional rights of the people of Maldives," the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement. Nasheed requested India's help+ - specifically, military support.

"We would like the Indian government to send an envoy, backed by its military, to free the judges and the political detainees, including former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, from their detention and to bring them to their homes. We are asking for a physical presence," he appealed.

Earlier, highly-placed sources in the Maldivian Supreme Court, too, had urged India and other democratic countries for help.

"The chief of judicial administration, Hasan Saeed, had his home raided on bribery charges and judges are being intimidated. We need India to take tough measures to ensure that rule of law is implemented in the Maldives," the source had told.

The Indian mission in Male, according to sources in New Delhi, was at the time, in touch with "all relevant agencies" involved in the matter.


Arjun Sengupta, Nov 4, 2023: The Indian Express

Operation Cactus: When India prevented a coup in Maldives

As Maldives’ president-elect doubles down on his ‘India Out’ stance, a look at the events of November 3, 1988, when Indian troops intervened to thwart a coup attempt in the island nation

India’s intervention in the 1988 coup attempt in Malé — codenamed Operation Cactus — continues to be remembered with gratitude and fondness. “Across party lines in the Maldives, they don’t criticise this operation. They will mention other issues that they have with India, but not this,” Dr Gulbin Sultana, a Maldives expert, told The Indian Express in 2021.

We recall the events that unfolded on November 3 and 4, 1988 in Maldives, and how India prevented a coup in the island nation.

A decade of coups

Maldives lies to the south-west of the Indian mainland, with its capital Malé slightly more than 600 km away from Thiruvananthapuram. It comprises nearly 1,200 low-lying coral islands sprawled across 90,000 sq km in the Indian Ocean.

Maumoon Abdul Gayoom (born 1937) became president of Maldives in 1978, amidst economic troubles and political instability. Gayoom eventually went on and ruled his country for 30 years, but in the 1980s, he faced three attempted coups (in 1980, 1983 and 1988), led by Maldivians disgruntled at his rule.

The last one would have succeeded, if not for Indian intervention.

Maldivian plotters and 80 Lankan fighters

The 1988 coup was the brainchild of Maldivian businessman Abdullah Luthufee and Ahmed “Sagaru” Nasir, supported by Uma Maheswaran, leader of the People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE), a militant Lankan Tamil organisation. After months of preparations, early morning on November 3, 80 PLOTE fighters, as well as a few Maldivian locals including Luthufee and Nasir, arrived in Malé aboard a couple of Lankan freighters.

They were armed with heavy machine guns, AK-47s, grenades and mortars, and had designated objectives to capture important infrastructure in the city, including the headquarters of the NSS, Maldives’ sole armed force. And they were successful in their objectives while suffering minimal losses: they controlled most of Malé by noon, although Gayoom himself had escaped to a safe house.

India gets involved

As the coup unfolded, SOS messages were sent to countries across the world. Arun Bannerjee, then the High Commissioner to the Maldives, was woken up at around 6.30 am in his New Delhi home. By 9 am a crisis committee meeting was underway in South Block, chaired by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. The Indian Army HQ had already been informed of a possible operation.

In Agra, the 50th Independent Parachute Brigade was activated, under Brigadier Farukh Bulsara. 6 Para, commanded by Colonel Subhash C Joshi was designated to lead the operation. By 3:30 pm, the Air Force’s 44 Squadron and the vanguard of the Parachute Brigade were at the airport, waiting for instructions. The High Commissioner too made it to Agra to brief the soldiers.

“The advantage of having the High Commissioner in the team was that he gave us a book in the briefing room that gave us a lot of information that was useful. It was a tourist guide book that you may find in Connaught Place. That was where we got our first look at Malé,” Brigadier Joshi (then Colonel) laughingly told The Indian Express in 2021.

A quick success

At around 9.30 pm local time, two Ilyushin IL-76s, flying non-stop from Agra carrying Indian soldiers and the High Commissioner Bannerjee, landed in Hulhulé, Maldives’ main airport. The effect of the landing on the rebels was instant.

“The rebels — ignorant of the actual strength of the Indian troops — overestimated their numbers and were overwhelmed… they decided to abandon their mission, and flee,” Ashok Chordia, an Indian Air Force veteran involved in the operation, wrote in his book Operation Cactus (2018).

The paratroopers immediately secured the airport before proceeding to the adjacent island of Malé to rescue Gayoom. By this time, Luthufee and some rebels had hijacked a merchant vessel to make their escape, along with seven hostages including the Maldives Transport Minister. Some rebels were left on the island, and were all eventually captured. The president was secured by around 5 am on November 4.

Chase in the high seas

Under orders from Brig Bulsara, the paratroopers fired at the fleeing rebel ship, causing enough damage to slow it down. Now it was the turn of the Navy to intercept the ship and rescue hostages. Frigates INS Betwa (from Kochi), and INS Godavari (returning from a friendly visit to Australia), were activated and tasked with intercepting the fleeing vessel before it entered Sri Lankan territorial waters.

The Indian ships caught up with the rebel vessel on November 5. After tense negotiations, the Indian ships opened fire. Seeing that no escape would be possible, the rebels finally surrendered and were taken aboard INS Godavari.


The attempted coup claimed the lives of 19 people. 68 Sri Lankan fighters and seven Maldivians were eventually arrested, interrogated and put to trial in Maldives. Four, including Luthufee, were given the death sentence which was later commuted at the request of PM Rajiv Gandhi.

Indian paratroopers stayed on in Malé for over a fortnight. But the relationship forged with the island nation has lasted far longer. Even president-elect Muizzu has toned down his rhetoric after the election win. He met the Indian High Commissioner Munu Mahawar three days after the election results came in, holding discussions on “further enhancing bilateral relations between Maldives and India.”


2011- 18: How China gained a foothold

February 11, 2018: The Times of India


President Yameen did not bring China into the Maldives. It was former president Mohamed Nasheed who allowed the Chinese to open their embassy in Male

From India’s point of view, the biggest “red line” was breached after Yameen signed a free-trade agreement with China in December 2017

How ‘India first’ turned into China first in the Maldives

Indrani Bagchi, How 'India First' turned into 'China First' for Maldives, February 10, 2018: The Times of India

Maldives foreign minister Mohamed Asim arrived in India as a special envoy for President Abdulla Yameen, swearing by his ostensible “India First” policy. Little known was the fact that India-Maldives relations would soon plunge to an all-time low with the Yameen government refusing to address any of India’s concerns.

By then, nobody in the Indian system set much store by these words, because it had become clear for some time that for President Yameen, “India First” has been replaced by “China First”. How did that happen?

It must be remembered that President Yameen did not bring China into the Maldives. That credit goes to former president Mohamed Nasheed, who, in 2011, allowed the Chinese to open their embassy in Male, and opened the doors to Chinese economic presence in the Maldives, despite Indian reservations.

However, Yameen took the China relationship to new levels, even as his profound distrust of India deepened. From India’s point of view, the biggest “red line” was breached after Yameen signed a free-trade agreement + (FTA) with China in December 2017, rushing it through the Majlis late at night, when members were given less than 15 minutes to read and approve the deal.

India had signed a preferential trade pact with Maldives way back in 1981, according to which, India supplies all essential commodities, aggregates and river-sand to Maldives, while the Maldives could sell anything it manufactured to India, without restrictions. Since the Maldives had tuna to export, that worked out just fine.

But New Delhi feels that the FTA with China is aimed at India, particularly after Yameen announced he would seek a similar pact with the Modi government. The FTA opened the floodgates to cheap Chinese goods into the Maldives. The 1981 pact allowed Maldives unfettered access to India but had no space for third country re-exports. Indian trade officials realised that the FTA was China’s way of accessing the Indian market through its neighbours. (In Sri Lanka too, the new SEZ in Hambantota is actually aimed at the Indian market.)

Not only did India squash any thought of a new FTA, the Maldives envoy was called in to reaffirm India’s concerns. This happened after a series of missteps in 2017, especially Maldives sudden announcement that it would allow Chinese warships to visit the archipelago. India sent an urgent message to Male saying this would seriously impact Indian security. Yameen replied the warships were on a goodwill visit and he would not refuse them.

India, which had studiously snubbed Yameen’s political opponents, in retaliation, allowed Nasheed to make his first visit to the country in August, coinciding with the visit of the Chinese warships. This may have been Yameen’s trigger to go hell for leather to China. India’s actions came after the first visits by MoS MJ Akbar and former foreign secretary S Jaishankar.

India also began facing other stumbling blocks in Maldives that were connected to China. For instance, Male began a ‘go-slow’ on the Indian radar installation project. Second, Yameen’s government began to push Indian entities and presence away from its southern atolls — this is where China has the bulk of its investments — the friendship bridge between Male and Hulhule, real estate projects in Hulhumale and a potential Chinese military base in Laamu Atoll. This is because China wants unfettered access to the 1.5-degree channel, which is very important for its Indian Ocean coverage.

India had already given a project plan for iHavan, on the condition that China should not be part of it. India has offered to open it to other ‘friendly’ countries like Japan. But, here too, Yameen played a strange game. On the one hand, he asked India to give him the money, on the other, he was found to be courting China. Again, the iHavan project is on an atoll very close to India and controls the 8-degree channel which China has its eye on.

In 2016, India welcomed Yameen with a defence cooperation pact and a host of other agreements, hoping to wean him away from China. An India-Maldives Action Plan for defence would build an institutional mechanism of defence secretaries and include port development, training and capacity building, equipment and maritime surveillance. Yet, a year later, the Maldives-China FTA opened the door to much of this from China.

The Maldives special envoy to China, Mohamed Saeed, even asked China to provide “security” to protect Chinese investments in the Maldives. China refused, which is just as well, because that, more than anything else would have triggered Indian action. But it signals growing desperation by Yameen.

Drinking water


March 28, 2024: The Times of India

In 2014, India helped a parched Maldives. A decade on, China steps in with Tibet water

In Dec2014, India carried out ‘Operation Neer’ during one of its worst water crises following a massive fire in Male Water and Sewerage Company complex on Dec4, 2014.

According to information from the Indian mission in Maldives, Indian aircraft flew multiple sorties (the first aircraft arrived in Male within 12 hours of the request from govt of Maldives) delivering 375 tonnes of drinking water to the people in Male.

Maldives foreign ministry has declared that the State has determined to distribute the water as aid to various islands in the event of drinking water shortage, the news portal said. PTI

Hydrology \ Naval agreement of 2019

2023: Maldives abandons the agreement

Sachin Parashar, Dec 15, 2023: The Times of India

New Delhi : After having asked India to withdraw its military personnel from Maldives, President Mohamed Muizzu has decided to pull out from a 2019 agreement for cooperation in the field of hydrology between the Indian Navy and Maldives National Defence Force. Male on Thursday notified India about its decision to annul the agreement which was signed during PM Modi’s visit to the country in June 2019.

The agreement allowed Indian Navy to carry out hydrographic surveys in Maldives to help improve navigation safety, economic development, security and defence cooperation, environmental protection, coastal zone management and research. The navy had so far carried out three such surveys under the agreement that Muizzu’s predecessor Ibrahim Solih signed with India.

“In the future, hydrography works will be carried out under 100% Maldivian management, and with only Maldivians privy to the information,” said a senior official of the President’s office, adding that the government will review “secret agreements” signed by the previous administration that endangered Maldives’ independence and sovereignty.

Muizzu has remained intent on driving out Indian military personnel, who are involved in operating and maintaining the two naval choppers and a Dornier aircraft India had gifted to Male, even though Indian govern ment sources claim that in the meeting he had with Modi in Dubal on the margins of COP28, the President acknowledged the utility of Indian “platforms” involved in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief activities.

According to Indian authorities, talks are still on to keep these Indian assets operational and that the core group that the two leaders agreed to form to enhance bilateral ties will work to find a “workable solution”. After he returned to Male though, Muizzu said India had agreed to pull out its soldiers.
The decision to cancel the hydrology agreement with India is likely to further fuel fears of a China-tilt in the Maldives’ foreign policy under Muizzu even though officials in Male strongly deny any such bias.

Indian tourists visiting the Maldives


India Times- The Times of India

According to the Maldives tourism ministry, a total of 1,757,939 tourists arrived in the island nation in 2023 till December 13 2023, an increase of 12.6% compared to the 1.5 million arrivals recorded in 2022.

The largest number of tourists who visited the Maldives were from

India (2,09,198),

Russia (2,09,146)

China (1,87,118).

In the October-December quarter of 2021, 1.15 lakh passengers travelled between India and Maldives on direct flights -- this translates to nearly 1,250 passengers a day each way between India and Maldives.



Maldives signs Free Trade Agreement with China

Maldives ‘flouts rules’, quietly inks trade deal with China, December 1, 2017: The Times of India

Setting off fresh concerns over China’s growing presence in the Indian Ocean, the Maldives government has signed a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Beijing without taking the country’s opposition, or even the people, into confidence.

According to the Maldivesopposition, the archipelago already owes almost 70% of its debt to China.

Maldives remains the only country in the region which PM Narendra Modi is yet to visit. Despite its stated India First policy formulation, the Abdulla Yameen government has shown scant regard for India’s security-related concerns.

“We are also deeply concerned that further entrenchment of thecountry into a Chinesedebttrap will resultin additional stress on strategic national assets and increasing instability in Indian Ocean region,” said the main opposition party, MDP’s statement.

According to the opposition, on November 29, the Speaker of parliament called for an emergency sitting, to pass the FTA with China. While the negotiations had been completed in September, Yameen signed the document. The agreement was apparently sent to the parliamentary oversight committeeon national security affairs within 3 minutes of submission tothefloor.

“The committee vetting the agreement took less than 10 minutes. The committee was conducted against parliamentary procedures... with deliberations closedoff for the public and to the media... MPs were not given access to the document... The government allowed for lessthan 1hour for the parliamentary process to approve the 1000+ page document,” saidthestatement.

FTA with China erodes Maldives’ sovereignty

Sachin Parashar, ‘FTA with China erodes sovereignty of Maldives’, December 4, 2017: The Times of India

With Maldives and China entering into a Free Trade Agreement, the nitty-gritty of which is yet to be made public, there’s mounting concernthat thestrategically-located archipelago could be the next country to walk into a Beijing debt trap, a situation that has serious strategic ramifications for India.

In an exclusive interaction with TOI, former Maldivian president and leader of main opposition party MDP Mohamed Nasheed slammed the agreement and said it wasn’t just against Maldivian national interest but would also upset “traditional allies’’ of the country, causing further tension in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

India and the US, the two “democratic stalwarts” in the Indo-Pacific, have repeatedly called for responsible debt financing practices as they have looked to undercut China’s policy to provide easy access to capital abroad in the name of improving connectivity. With the trade balance already favouring China, there’s a fear that the FTA will further increase the deficit.

Developments in Maldives since the ouster of Nasheed in 2012 have worried India as the islands have been roiled by internal power plays and the growing shadow of China’s economic and military presence in the IOR along with signs that radical influences are taking root in the nation where a large majority practices Sunni Islam.

“This disgraceful agreement — rushed through parliament in under an hour, whileopposition MPswere conveniently summoned to appear in court — is not in the Maldivian national interest,” said Nasheed, who lives in exile in London.

“Itwilldeepen thedebttrap to China. Already more than 70% of our foreign debt is owed to Beijing, which givesBeijing huge leverage over us, undermining Maldivian sovereignty and independence,” he added. Recent examples such as Sri Lanka’s decision to allow Chinese control of Hambantota port as part of a debt swap have sharpened India’s concerns too.

The Maldivian opposition believes India has continued to mollycoddletheAbdulla Yameen government in thefond hope that itwill, even as it encourages Chinese investment, do nothing to hurt India’s security interest. In August, theMaldives, which PMNarendra Modi has avoided visiting so far, was said to have allowed three Chinese warships to dock at the Male harbour.


Jan: Maldives tries to mend ties, says ‘India First’

Maldives tries to mend ties, says ‘India First’, January 12, 2018: The Times of India

India and the Maldives pressed the reset button in ties with the latter’s foreign minister Mohamed Asim briefing his counterpart Sushma Swaraj and PM Narendra Modi about Male’s position on a host of issues that seemed to be plaguing the bilateral relationship in recent times.

Asim, who visited India also as President Abdulla Yameen’s special envoy, reiterated Male’s ‘India First’ policy and, according to a statement issued by India, emphasised that Maldives attached the highest priority to its ties with India.

According to official sources here, Asim did not just assure India that Male will do nothing to jeopardise India’s security interests but also said in his meetings with both Modi and Swaraj that the Maldives would expedite work on India’s developmental projects which the two countries had announced during Yameen’s visit to India. Progress on these projects had been patchy until now.

Discussions in Asim’s meetings with Modi and Swaraj centred around strengthening of the development partnership between India and Maldives and enhancing defence and security cooperation, said the Indian government.

Asim also invited Modi to Maldives, the only Saarc country which the PM has avoided visiting until now. Modi agreed to visit Maldives “at a suitable time’’ as he affirmed that India would always remain a reliable and close neighbour of Male. Asim is also said to have discussed with his Indian counterpart Maldives’ recent FTA with China. Male continues to maintain that it would soon like to have a similar agreement with India.

“Swaraj met Mohamed Asim, foreign minister and special envoy of the President of Maldives. Both had productive discussions to strengthen bilateral relationship keeping in mind ‘India First’ policy of Maldives and our policy of ‘Neighbourhood first’,” the ministry of external affairs (MEA) spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted.

“External affairs minister (Swaraj) conveyed our commitment to achieving the full potential of our relationship in line with India’s Neighbourhood First policy,’’ an MEA statement said.

Foreign secretary S Jaishankar alsio paid a “courtesy call’’ on Asim.

Highlighting President Yameen’s ‘India First’ policy, Asim reiterated the importance of further strengthening the historical ties between the two countries, said Male in a statement. “He further expressed gratitude to the government of India for their valuable contribution towards the socio-economic development of the Maldives. Prime Minister Modi assured that the Maldives has, and will always remain, a close friend of India. Further, the Prime Minister assured that India would extend its support in all areas of cooperation.’’ it said.

Feb: Maldives SC seeks India’s help

Sachin Parashar, Maldives SC seeks India’s help as president declares war on it, February 5, 2018: The Times of India

The Maldives was teetering on the brink of military rule on Sunday with the Abdulla Yameen government looking to stifle the country’s supreme court. Highly placed sources in the Maldivian apex court, even as they beseeched India and other democratic countries for help, told TOI that Yameen was looking to sack SC judges, including chief justice Abdulla Saeed, by filing false cases against them.

“The chief of judicial administration, Hasan Saeed, had his home raided on bribery charges and judges are being intimidated. We need India to take tough measures to ensure that rule of law is implemented in the Maldives,” a top source in the SC told TOI. The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, was closely involved with the SC ruling which ordered the release of all political prisoners, including Mohammed Nasheed, the country’s first democratically elected president. The Indian mission in Male, according to sources in New Delhi, was in touch with “all relevant agencies” involved in the crisis.

Things took a turn for the worse in the morning as the country’s police chief and the Maldives National Defence Force announced they were going to take orders from attorney general Mohamed Anil and not the SC. But later in the evening, the SC dealt another blow to Yameen, asking him to comply with its order to release political prisoners and reinstate dissident lawmakers because their trials were “politically motivated and flawed”.

‘Yameen fooling international community’

The attorney general accusedthe SC of preparing to impeach Yameen and said such a move would not just be illegal but also be resisted by the government. Anil said Yameen’s removal from office by the court would plunge the country into a “national security crisis”.

The top court had last week ordered the release of all political prisoners. However, even three days after the ruling, Yameen has not moved to free the prisoners. The ruling had also reinstated 12 MPs, giving the joint opposition led by Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party a clear majority in parliament.

A top SC official told TOI that an attempt was being made by the government to overhaul the judiciary. He said the SC was troubled by the manner in which the Yameen government had been misleading the international community for the past 3-4 years.

“The foreign minister, Mohamed Asim, has been telling worldleaders that the Yameen government only implements orders from the judiciary. He is only fooling them by saying these things. The fact is that all cases against the jailed leaders were found politically motivated and the ruling makes that point very clearly,” the official said.

Reason for asking help

Why Maldives' SC wants India's help: 10 points, February 5, 2018: The Times of India

Maldives has been in the grip of a political crisis ever since its Supreme Court overturned the convictions of some opposition leaders. On Sunday, the court requested India's help in the matter. Here are the key points about the current situation on the island-nation, what caused it and what the future holds:

  • The Maldivian Supreme Court ordered the immediate release of nine opposition leaders, including exiled former president Mohammed Nasheed, and their retrials. In its order, the court said that the prisoners' 'guilty' verdicts had been "influenced" by the government.

  • The ruling may allow Nasheed, who was Maldives' first democratically elected president, to challenge President Abdulla Yameen when he seeks re-election later this year. Nasheed had been sentenced to 13 years in prison on terrorism charges but later received asylum in Britain.

  • The court also ordered the reinstatement of 12 MPs, who had been ousted for switching allegiance to the opposition. With their return, President Yameen's Progressive Party of the Maldives will lose its majority in the 85-member Parliament. This could lead to the opposition evicting the speaker and passing 'no confidence' motions against government officials, reported Reuters.

  • The 12 ousted lawmakers, who were later reinstated, entered Parliament despite military deployment to block their entry into the building.

  • In a statement released on Friday, India said it was "closely monitoring" the situation, and urged the Maldivian government to "respect and abide by the order of the apex court."

  • The ruling led to several clashes between opponents of the country's government and its police in the capital Male.

  • However, Yameen has shown no inclination to implement the order yet, even as the apex court on Sunday categorically asked that the ruling be complied with.

"There is nothing preventing the prosecutor general from seeking a re-trial after the order has been implemented (and prisoners released)," the Supreme Court said in a statement.

  • Meanwhile on Sunday, the country's attorney general alleged that the court was trying to impeach Yameen, even as he warned that the president can be ousted only through a vote in Parliament. He said that he had asked national bodies and defence units to disregard any Supreme Court ruling on impeaching Yameen.

  • Highly-placed sources in the Maldivian Supreme Court on Sunday told TOI that Yameen was looking to sack judges of the apex court+ , including chief justice Abdulla Saeed, by filing false cases against them. It was also feared that military rule could be a very real possibility.

According to an earlier report by TOI, Yameen is said to have told a gathering of supporters about the Supreme Court ruling: "This will be sorted out soon... I'll deal with the SC."

  • The same sources in the court have also urgently requested India and other democratic countries for help.

"The chief of judicial administration, Hasan Saeed, had his home raided on bribery charges and judges are being intimidated. We need India to take tough measures to ensure that rule of law is implemented in the Maldives," the source told.

Feb: ‘Visit dates of Maldives’ special envoy did not suit Indian side’

February 8, 2018: The Times of India


Maldives has dispatched special envoys to China, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to brief them about the deepening political crisis in the country

Sources said there is a set protocol to send an envoy and India had not been informed of the purpose

A source also indicated that India may have declined the proposed visit

Maldives' beleaguered President Abdulla Yameen wanted to send his foreign minister as special envoy but the Indian side did not find the dates "suitable", the Maldivian ambassador said, even as officials here maintained that no "real action" was taken by that country on India's concerns over democracy there.

Yameen has already dispatched special envoys to China, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to brief them about the deepening political crisis+ in the country.

"India was in fact the first stop planned and proposed for a visit of a special envoy of the president of Maldives. However, the dates proposed were not suitable for the Indian leadership," Maldivian envoy Ahmed Mohamed told PTI.

"We understand the external affairs minister is out of country and the prime minister is leaving for UAE during the week," he said. However, sources here said that there is a set protocol to send an envoy and India had not been informed of the purpose of sending the envoy.

Indicating that India may have declined the proposed visit, a source said, "Also we have not seen any real action on the concerns stated by the international community and India. Democratic institutions and the judiciary continue to be undermined and concerns ignored, these issues need to be properly addressed."

President Yameen has sent Minister of Economic Development Mohamed Saeed to China and Foreign Minister Mohamed Asim to Pakistan in the wake of the crisis. Minister of Fisheries and Agriculture Mohamed Shainee is going to Saudi Arabia.

Later, a Maldivian embassy release also said, "The first stop of special envoy of the President was India. Foreign Minister of Maldives Mohamed Asim, the designated Special envoy of the President, was scheduled for 8th February 2018, to (visit) India but the visit was cancelled on the request of the Government of India."

It also said, "It is therefore grossly misleading to say that the Government of the Maldives was bypassing India."

The island nation, which has seen several political crises since the ouster of its first democratically-elected president Mohamed Nasheed in 2012, plunged into chaos last Thursday when the apex court ordered the release of nine imprisoned opposition politicians, maintaining that their trials were "politically motivated and flawed".

India, which is monitoring the situation very "closely", had said on Tuesday that it was "disturbed" about the declaration of emergency+ by the Maldivian government and described as a matter of "concern" the arrests of the chief justice and political figures there.

However, earlier this week, the Supreme Court revoked its order on the release of the opposition politicians.

Feb: Maldives declines India's invite for naval exercise

February 27, 2018: The Times of India


Maldives has not not given any reason for the decision.

Navy sources said over 16 countries have confirmed their participation in the exercise.

The naval exercise is being organised in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Maldives has declined India's invitation to participate in the biennial naval exercise Milan, which starts March 6, Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba said. Maldives has not not given any reason for the decision, Lanba told reporters on the sidelines of an event here.

Navy sources said over 16 countries have confirmed their participation in the exercise. The biennial exercise 'Milan' is being organised in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the backdrop of China's growing military posturing in the Indo-Pacific region and officials said the issue is likely to figure during deliberations among navy chiefs of the participating countries at the event.

"The interactions during Milan encompass sharing of views and ideas on maritime good order and enhancing regional cooperation for combating unlawful activities at sea," spokesperson of Indian Navy Capt D K Sharma said.

Besides fostering cooperation through naval exercises and professional interactions, Capt Sharma said 'Milan' will also provide an opportunity to the participating navies to nurture stronger ties in dealing with various security challenges.

India, the US and several other nations have been pressing for freedom of navigation in the disputed South China Sea. Officials said China's military manoeuvres in the South China Sea may figure during discussions among navy chiefs of the participating countries at the event.

March: Male’s engagement with China, Pak ‘too secretive’ for India

Sachin Parashar, Male’s engagement with China, Pak ‘too secretive’ for India, March 29, 2018: The Times of India

While the Abdulla Yameen government has lifted Emergency in the Maldives, India remains upset with Male for the opaque manner in which it is carrying out not just its China policy but also its overtures to Pakistan. The latest issue niggling India is Male’s decision to discuss with Islamabad a visit by Pakistan army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa without first bringing it to the notice of South Block.

Despite its stated India First policy, the Yameen government has not bothered, unlike all other previous governments in Male, to take India into confidence on major issues in the spirit of mutual trust whether it’s the Chinese investments in the Maldives or the ocean observatory Beijing wants to build right under India’s nose.

“As usual, the current Maldivian regime remains secretive about the dealings with the Chinese and Pakistanis unlike previous governments which took us into confidence in advance on such issues,’’ said a top Indian official on condition of anonymity when asked about Bajwa’s visit to Pakistan. He added that India was closely following reports that Bajwa was going to visit Male on March 31.

As TOI had first reported on February 26, China is looking to build what the Maldives officially describes as a Joint Ocean Observation Station on the westernmost atoll of Makunudhoo in northern Maldives, not far from Lakshadweep. Even as it seeks to convince India that the observatory will have no military application, it has refused to share a copy of the agreement for the observatory with the Indian government.

Official sources here said that former foreign secretary S Jaishankar had sought a clarification from the Maldivian ambassador, Ahmed Mohamed, over the issue. Mohamed is learnt to have told Jaishankar that China was only looking to build a meteorological ocean observation centre in the Maldives.

A senior official of the Maldivian government told TOI too that the agreement signed was for meteorological purposes but refused to share a copy saying it was not a public document.

While the President’s official website calls the agreement The Protocol on Establishment of Joint Ocean Observation Station between the Maldives and China, the Maldivian official claimed that the website probably “forgot’’ to add the word meteorological to it.

A marine observatory, as strategic affairs expert Brahma Chellaney says, is an important tool to gather information on ocean state, phenomena and processes to have a better understanding of ocean dynamics and grasp regional characteristics and vulnerabilities. As Vice Admiral (Rtd) Jagjit Singh Bedi had tweeted, in response to the TOI story on the proposed observatory, China needed accurate and reliable hydrological data for sub surface operations. “Precursor to prolonged deployment of SSBN/ SSN operations in the Arabian Sea. To be read in conjunction with surveys conducted off Gwadar (the Pakistan port which China has built and controls) to analyse tectonic activity,’’ tweeted Bedi.

April: Maldives returns gifted helicopter to India

Sachin Parashar and Rajat Pandit, April 4, 2018: The Times of India


A top Maldives government source told TOI that Male wanted a Dornier maritime surveillance aircraft.

India had given Male a "Dhruv" Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH).

The chopper which Maldives wants India to take back operates from Addu atoll.

At a time when relations between India and the Maldives are clearly in a free fall, Male has asked the Indian government to take back one of the two naval helicopters New Delhi had gifted to the Indian Ocean archipelago.

Official sources said they were still discussing with the Abdulla Yameen government what the real issue was but a top Maldives government source told TOI that Male wanted a Dornier maritime surveillance aircraft instead of the "Dhruv" Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) which India had given to Male. The chopper which Maldives wants India to take back operates from Addu atoll.

The development is certain to further strain India's relations with the Maldives and will also raise questions on India's defence and security cooperation with Male at atime when China is making deep inroads into the strategically located country with its connectivity and other infrastructure projects.

Moreover, Pakistan army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa visited Maldives on Sunday, becoming the first foreign dignitary to visit the 1,190-island archipelago after the 45-day Emergency was lifted there last month. "We are closely watching the situation," said an Indian government source.

Seeking to justify the decision, sources in the Yameen government also said that the Letter of Exchange (LoE) for the ALH at Addu had expired. The LoE though is renewed every two years and this is for the first time that Male has chosen to not renew it. Among other things, the stay of Indian personnel in the Maldives is also facilitated by the LoE.

Male is said to be also considering asking India to remove the other Indian ALH too which operates from the Laamu atoll. Sources in Yameen government, however, denied that any decision had been taken on the Laamu atoll chopper.

Laamu in southern Maldives is a sensitive location as that's where China is said to be considering building a port. Recent evacuation of inhabitants from the Gaadhoo island there, and Chinese presence in the region, has again raised questions about the intentions of the Yameen government.

India, with an eye firmly on China, has invested heavily in Maldives in providing military aid, training and "capacity-building" over the last several years. Apart from gifting a fast-attack craft, India has stationed six pilots and over a dozen ground personnel to operate the ALHs and help the Maldivian National Defence Forces.

An Indian Navy Dornier maritime reconnaissance aircraft and a warship alternatively also make a weekly sortie to the Maldives to patrol its exclusive economic zone under a long-standing bilateral agreement.

India is also helping Maldives in setting up 10 coastal surveillance radar system (CSRS) stations, each with navigation radars, electrooptic sensors and AIS (automatic identification system) transponders. India has helped set up similar CSRS stations in Seychelles and Mauritius, among other countries in the IOR.

April/ Chinese land grab cause for concern for US, too

April 8, 2018: The Times of India

Amid allegations of China engaging in massive land grabbing in the Maldives, the Pentagon on Saturday said it was a cause for concern for the US.

Asserting that the US was “committed to a free and open” Indo-Pacific rules-based order, the Pentagon said anything else would cause the United States concern. “The US is committed to a free and open Indo-Pacific rules-based order. We have seen concerning developments in Maldives as far as the Chinese influence is concerned,” Joe Felter, deputy assistant secretary of defence for South and Southeast Asia, said.

“It’s in India’s backyard. We know it’s of concern to India. So, yes, (the situation in Maldives) is a concern. We will see how it plays out. It emphasises some of our priorities identified in our National Defence Strategy,” the top Pentagon official said. He was responding to a question on the allegations of a Maldivian opposition leader and a former foreign minister, on the Chinese land grabbing activities in the island nation with the potential of developing them into a military outpost.

“If you look at similar activities across the region, it gives us some cause for concern. From Djibouti to, Gwadar put to Hambantota port in Sri Lanka, and now potentially the Maldives and then extending further east, it’s of concern,” he said, adding, other countries in the region have expressed similar concern.

May/ Thaw in military ties as India sends warship to Maldives

May 12, 2018: The Times of India

In an indication of a slight upswing in bilateral military ties after a distinct chill, India has dispatched a warship to Maldives to undertake joint surveillance and patrol of the archipelago’s sprawling exclusive economic zone.

Two officers and eight sailors from the Indian Navy’s marine commandos wing are also currently at Maafilhafushi in Maldives, 145 km north of Male, to train its personnel in diving and tactics under the second asymmetric warfare training exercise called “Ekatha” from April 28 to May 15.

“It is an endeavour of the Indian government and Navy to ensure safety and security of the vast EEZ of the island nation,” said Navy spokesperson Captain D K Sharma on Friday. Offshore patrol vessel INS Sumedha will undertake an operational turn-around at Male on May 11-12, which will involve training and embarkation of some personnel from the Maldives National Defence Forces.

It will then undertake the joint surveillance from May 12 to 15.

Bilateral ties between the two countries had soured after Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen on February 5 declared Emergency following an order by the country’s Supreme Court to release a group of opposition leaders convicted in widely criticised trials.

Maldives had subsequently declined India’s invitation to participate in its eight-day mega naval conclave called “Milan” at the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Maldives had later also asked the India to take back one of its two Dhruv advanced light helicopters (ALHs) gifted to the archipelago, as was first reported by TOI in April.

With an eye on China, India has provided military aid, training, “capacity-building” and EEZ surveillance to Maldives over the last several years. Apart from gifting a fast-attack craft, India has stationed six pilots and over a dozen ground personnel there to operate the ALHs and help the MNDF.

June/ India ensures Male loses UNSC seat

Sachin Parashar, Delhi not only voted against Male, but ensured it lost in UN, June 19, 2018: The Times of India

Got Small Island Nations To Side With Jakarta

Did India vote for the Maldives or Indonesia at the recent elections for the UN Security Council non-per manent seat?

While Male continues to claim India’s support in the face of reports that the government might have voted against it, diplomatic sources told TOI that India didn’t just vote for Indonesia but also worked to ensure that its hostile Indian Ocean neighbour fared poorly in the election.

Indonesia finally trumped Male’s bid for the Asia-Pacific seat by an overwhelming margin. The Maldives got support from only 46 countries in the secret ballot on June 8 against the 144 for Indonesia.

Details percolating through now indicate that not only did India not vote for the Maldives but it also worked to ensure that the latter’s core base of small island nations was considerably eroded. This meant that Male’s final tally fell well short of even its own expectations.

It’s well known that many of these countries pick their cues from India which signalled to them to support Indonesia. Male, at one stage, was claiming to have support from 60 countries in writing and 30 more verbally.

India’s vote, even after having pledged support to Male earlier, will likely be seen as the first punitive action against the Maldives, a country which under President Abdulla Yameen is seen as having worked overtime to undermine India’s security interests in the Indian Ocean.

India is still smarting under Male’s decision to ask Indian authorities to remove both its “gifted” helicopters from the Maldives by Juneend and also under its instructions to immigration officials to put on hold fresh work permits for Indians. Both these decisions were reported first by TOI on June 5.

Maldives’s ambassador to India Ahmed Mohamed, though, continues to claim support from India. He told TOI that he still stood by his tweet immediately after the voting that India had given in writing to the Maldives on June 7, a day before the election, that it was supporting Male’s bid.

To many, though, the claim that India voted for the Maldives, ignoring Indonesia, in these circumstances stretched the limits of credulity. Indonesia had sought support from India for its candidature during PM Narendra Modi’s visit to Jakarta just ahead of the voting. The visit saw the two countries — as they sought to expand defence and maritime cooperation — upgrade their relationship to a comprehensive strategic partnership.

India also broke its silence on the political situation in the Maldives and called out Yameen for the sentencing of political prisoners without giving them a fair trial.


$50 million Line of Credit for defence projects

February 22, 2021: The Times of India

India and Maldives signed a $50 million Line of Credit to fund defence projects in the island nation, as foreign minister S Jaishankar wrapped up a two-day visit.

Jaishankar met President Ibrahim Solih, his counterpart Abdulla Shahid, defence minister Mariya Didi and head of the Majlis Mohamed Nasheed during his visit, which was also an occasion to review and enhance India’s participation in infrastructure projects in Maldives.

India openly reiterated its support for the Maldives foreign minister’s candidature for president of the 76th session of the UN general assembly. A joint press statement issued at the end of the visit said, “An agreement to develop, support and maintain a Maldives National Defence Force Coast Guard harbour at Sifvaru (Uthuru Thilafalhu) was also signed. This agreement was signed pursuant to the request government of Maldives made in April 2013 for support and cooperation of the government of India to assist Maldives for enhancing the capability of the defence forces in exercising jurisdiction and undertaking maritime surveillance of its EEZ and islands.”

India will assist in the development of Hanimaadhoo and Addu Gan airports which are being financed under an $800 million Line of Credit with the aim of making Maldives more accessible to tourists. The statement said they “agreed to strengthen coordination in enhancing regional maritime security, including on combatting terrorism, including crossborder terrorism and maintaining peace in the region to ensure freedom of navigation in the Indian Ocean”.

India backs Maldives’ foreign minister for UNGA presidency

Indrani Bagchi, June 8, 2021: The Times of India

Maldives’ foreign minister Abdulla Shahid will be the new president of the UN General Assembly for the 76th session, winning the poll with nearly three-fourth of the votes. After counting, 143 had voted in his favour with 48 against and zero abstentions.

But behind the scenes, an intense diplomatic battle between India and China had played out over past six months. Maldives put forward its candidature in December 2018, naming Shahid. There was no other candidate back then. Maldives had never taken any of the big jobs in UN earlier so supporting them was the right thing to do. India threw its diplomatic weight behind Shahid.

In January, ex-Afghan foreign minister Zalmai Rassoul threw his hat into the ring and became the rival candidate. That put New Delhi in a dilemma as he and Afghanistan are as close to India as Maldives. But the bigger question was why he was contesting? It turned out China and Pakistan played a big role in supporting him against Shahid, albeit informally.

For China, the Maldives under Ibrahim Solih is not as friendly as it was during Yameen years. This was a good way to put up headwinds against Shahid’s candidature. It was also intended to put India in a quandary. Knowing India had supported Shahid, the move was to be an indication to Kabul that New Delhi would not always support it.


Jan: Acrimony

Sachin Parashar, January 8, 2024: The Times of India

Maldives ‘suspends’ 3 mins over remarks against Modi

‘Not Govt Views’, Says Maldivian Foreign Ministry

New Delhi : The Maldives “suspended” three deputy ministers on Sunday for ridiculing PM Narendra Modi on social media for his recent visit to Lakshadweep, after the Indian high commission in Male registered a strong protest over the issue.

Without naming the ministers, Maldivian foreign ministry said that the remarks “against foreign leaders and high-ranking individuals” didn’t represent the views of Maldivian government.

Local media identified the suspended deputy ministers as Malsha Shareef, Abdulla Mahzoom Majid and Mariyam Shiuna, who posted a derogatory remark about Modi on X, which she later deleted. All three were members in youth ministry.

The controversy comes at a time when ties between the two countries have become strained because of apparent efforts by new president Mohamed Muizzu to limit defence ties with India and in the middle of Male’s China outreach that will see him travelling, as first reported by TOI on January 1, to Beijing for a six-day visit.

India allows export of essential items to the Maldives for FY 2024-25

April 7, 2024: The Times of India

New Delhi: In a rare show of bonhomie, after India allowed export of limited quantities of essential items to the Maldives for the 2024-25 financial year, Male thanked India, saying the gesture signified the longstanding friendship between the two countries. Foreign minister S Jaishankar responded by saying India stands firmly committed to its ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy.

“I sincerely thank EAM @DrSJaishankar and the govt of India for the renewal of the quota to enable Maldives to import essential commodities from India during the years 2024 & 2025. This is truly a gesture which signifies the longstanding friendship, and the strong commitment to further expand bilateral trade and commerce between our two countries (sic),” said Maldives foreign minister Moosa Zameer in a post on X. “You are welcome, FM @MoosaZameer. India stands firmly committed to its Neighbourhood First and SAGAR policies,” responded his counterpart.

Centre Friday allowed limited export of eggs, potatoes, onions, rice, wheat flour, sugar, pulses, stone aggregate and river sand to Maldives for the current financial year under the bilateral trade agreement, SAGAR, between the two countries. SAGAR or ‘Security and Growth for All in the Region’ is India’s vision for maritime cooperation with other countries in the Indian Ocean Region.

As per a commerce ministry notification, India will export around 42.7 crore eggs, 25,513 tonnes potatoes, 35,749 tonnes onion, 1.24 lakh tonnes rice, nearly 1.1 lakh tonnes wheat flour and 64,494 tonnes of sugar. India will also export 224.5 tonnes of pulses and 10 lakh tonnes of stone aggregate and river sand each to Maldives during the current financial year.

“Export of the listed items to the Republic of Maldives shall be exempted from any existing or future restriction/ prohibition during 2024-25,” the commerce ministry said.

The development came amid souring ties over efforts by Maldives to limit its defence and security cooperation with India. As asked by Male, the Indian govt is withdrawing from the archipelago its defence personnel who were involved in operating Indian naval choppers meant for medical evacuation & other HADR activities.

India extends budgetary support of $50m to Maldives

May 14, 2024: The Times of India

New Delhi : Following the recent visit of Maldives foreign minister Moosa Zameer, India has extended budgetary support of $50 million to the island nation. The support is in the form of a rollover of $50 million Treasury Bill for an additional year, through the State Bank of India, Male, from May 13,2024.

Thanking his counterpart S Jaishankar for the support, Zameer said this was a “true gesture of goodwill” which signified the long-standing friendship between the two countries.

“Govt of India’s decision to roll over the T-Bill came following a request to that effect made by Zameer to India’s external affairs minister. Jaishankar, during the official bilateral visit to India from 8-10 May, 2024. Govt of Maldives is appreciative of the generous support that Govt of India has been providing to the Maldives in the form of budgetary support,” said the Maldives.

Large number of infrastructural developmental projects and high impact community developmental projects are under way with the assistance of India, which consists of a notable part as grant assistance. “ Govt of Maldives looks forward in continuing this collaborative partnership for the mutual benefit of their people,” said Maldivian govt.

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