India-Maldives bonhomie signals resolve to oust China from archipelago


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By Manish Anand
August 2: While Maldivian opposition parties have been pressing ahead with ‘Oust India’ campaign, India has seemingly doubled up resolve to oust China from the Indian Ocean archipelago with liberal funding of the development projects in its several islands.

On Tuesday, India rolled the red-carpet for the visiting Maldivian President Ibrahim Solih. He became the first head of the State to visit India after the election of Droupadi Murmu as the President of India. Prime Minister Modi in his second term had visited Maldives for his first overseas travel. Solih had visited New Delhi in 2018 after becoming President of Maldives.

Solih has come to India at a time when New Delhi is watching the Indian Ocean waters much closely, as a Chinese ‘study’ vassal reportedly equipped with all tools to spy upon the nearby regions will be visiting the Sri Lankan waters.
Also, the video of the celebrations of the International Yoga Day disruptions in Maldives at the behest of the hardliner Islamists had gone viral this year to fuel the assessment in New Delhi that Chinese money is being poured in Male to fuel the anti-India sentiments in the archipelago.

Modi warmly welcomed Solih on Tuesday, while signing a number of pacts with the visiting dignitary in New Delhi. Solih-led Maldives ‘India First’ and India’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy were much in focus during the discussions between the two leaders in the national capital.

“We have decided to extend an additional USD 100 million to facilitate completion of all the projects in Maldives,” said Modi, while addressing the press with Solih.

Modi said that he and Solih reviewed the progress of the construction of 4000 social housing units in Maldives, while agreeing to extend financial support for the construction of another 2000 units.

The prime minister underlined that there are risks of trans-national crime, drug-trafficking and terrorism in the Indian Ocean. Modi stressed on a closer partnership between India and Maldives for tackling the strategic challenges in the Indian Ocean.

India funded Greater Male project worth USD 500 million is likely to boost connectivity in the archipelago, which had allowed China to enter the country with its Belt Road Initiative (BRI) when the islands’ nation was ruled by Abdullah Yameen.

India with liberal financing of the development needs of Maldives as part of its Island National Development Programme has sought to steer Male away from the influence of China.

The Chinese BRI-led debt trap is already bleeding Sri Lanka and Paksitan, with former already declaring itself as financially bankrupt, while the latter is on the verge of the financial collapse.

India assisted projects in Maldives includes Addu development project (Road and reclamation), water and santitation projects in 34 islands, besides restoration of the Male Hukuru Miskiy.

It’s worthwhile to note that Maldivian economy is based on tourism and every fourth visitors to the archipelago is an Indian, with Russians being the second largest nationality to go there to soak into the beauty of the blue waters.

Also, the world is fast-becoming aware of the cost of the China’s BRI which has landed over 60 countries in deep debt, with some of them already pushed to the status of defaults.

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