India and Maldives seem to be finally getting back on track and completing sidelining China. Indian Army and the Maldives National Defence Force started a 14-day join military training programme in the Maldives on Saturday. This development is amid the backdrop of India granting $1.4 Billion in aid to thwart Chinese attempts to debt-trap the nation.
India Extends $1.4 Billion Assistance to the Maldives
Indian PM Narendra Modi announced $1.4 billion financial assistance to the Maldives after he held extensive talks with President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih during which both sides vowed to deepen security cooperation in the Indian Ocean region.
The two countries also inked four pacts, including one on visa facilitation. “We held successful talks in a cordial atmosphere. We vowed to strengthen ties,” Modi said in his press statement, with Solih by his side.
He also said the security interests of the two countries were intertwined and both sides will work together to further strengthen cooperation in the Indian Ocean region. “We will not allow our countries to be used for activities which can be harmful to each other’s interests,” Modi asserted.
The prime minister said India is extending USD 1.4 billion as budget support, currency swap and line of credit for the social and economic development of Maldives. “We want greater trade ties with the Maldives. There are increasing opportunities for Indian companies in the island nation,” he said.
On his part, Solih said the two sides agreed to strengthen maritime security cooperation in the Indian Ocean region through coordinated patrol and aerial surveillance.
Solih arrived here Sunday on a three-day state visit, his first foreign trip after assuming the charge of the top office in the island nation a month ago. Modi had attended Solih’s swearing-in ceremony on November 17.
Earlier, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj called on Solih and discussed bilateral and regional issues of mutual interests. Relations between India and the Maldives deteriorated after then-president Abdulla Yameen imposed emergency on February 5 this year. India had criticised his decision and asked his government to restore the credibility of the electoral and political process by releasing political prisoners. The emergency lasted for 45 days.
India-Maldives Joint Training Program
The training contingents comprised a platoon from the Madras Regiment from Konark Corps and a similar strength of the Maldivian National Defence Force. Senior military observers and dignitaries of both the countries will be witnessing the validation phase of the exercise.
Exercise Ekuverin-2018 will be the ninth edition of joint exercise and is in continuation of a series of a joint exercise between the Indian Army and Maldivian National Defence force. The previous edition of the exercise was held at Belagani, India in 2017.
“The aim of the joint exercise is to acquaint both forces with each other’s operating procedures in the backdrop of amphibious and counterinsurgency, counter-terrorism environment as also to enhance the existing military relationship between the Indian Army and the Maldivian National Defence Force,” said an official.
The Indian Army contingent landed at Male International Airport on December 14 on a C-130 military aircraft of the Indian Air Force. The exercise aims to enhance the interoperability between the Indian Army and the Maldivian National Defence Forces in conducting joint operations and cement bonds of friendship between the two countries.
The new president of the Maldives has called India the island nation’s closest friend, welcome words for New Delhi after years of Beijing’s growing economic influence.
The Press Trust of India news agency reports that President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, speaking Sunday in New Delhi, said India “is not only our closest friend, it is also our largest trading partner.”
Solih defeated strongman Yameen Abdul Gayoom, who had forged increasingly closer ties to China, in a September election.
India has long seen the Indian Ocean nation as part of its sphere of influence. China, though, sees the Maldives as part of its “Belt and Road” infrastructure programs, which follow ancient trade routes through the Indian Ocean and Central Asia. Beijing has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the Maldives.