May 29, 2024

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india maldives dispute: How India is helping Maldives dream big

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India has always been a bankable neighbour to the Maldives. From helping develop airports, stadiums and a cancer hospital to improving connectivity, New Delhi is playing a big role in the island nation’s infrastructure boom

The relationship between India and the Maldives has hit another rough patch. A diplomatic row has erupted after Maldivian ministers mocked Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Lakshwadeep and made derogatory remarks about Indians. Outraged, several tourists are cancelling their visit to the island nation.

From airports to sports infrastructure: How India is helping Maldives dream big

The controversy comes amid deteriorating ties with the Maldives under its pro-China leader, Mohamed Muizzu. Since he took power in November 2023, he has pushing for the “India Out” campaign. However, the two countries have shared a “close and cordial” relationship over the years and India has been a thoughtful neighbour, always showing up in times of crisis – during a coup and when disasters like the tsunami and the COVID-19 pandemic struck. India has also assisted the island nation in boosting its infrastructure, connectivity and healthcare, helping Maldivians dream big.

New Delhi has extended eight “Line of Credit” Projects worth USD 1.3 billion. We take a look at how India has been constantly putting its weight behind its neighbour.

While India is the Maldives’ largest source of tourism, it has also helped in building infrastructure to support the industry.

It is involved in projects linked to airports: the Hanimaadhoo International Airport Redevelopment Project and the Gan International Airport Redevelopment Project. India has backed the Hanimaadhoo airport plan, the first-ever project outside the Greater Male Region. It is funded under the $800 million concessional Line of Credit (LoC) extended by the Government of India to the Maldives. The project includes the extension of the runway to 2,200 metres to allow A320s, and Boeing 737s to land, and the upgrade of terminals.

From airports to sports infrastructure How India is helping Maldives dream big

The expansion of the Gan International Airport, which involves the construction of the air traffic control tower and a fire station and upgrading and renewing the current terminal, parking facilities, roads, duty-free shops and restaurants, is funded by India’s Exim Bank, which gives LoC to countries for undertaking India-funded infrastructure projects.

A Chennai-based construction and construction material manufacturing company won a $29 million contract to upgrade the airport and the work is expected to be completed by 2025.

Island connectivity project

In August 2022, when then-Maldivian president Ibrahim Mohamed Solih was visiting, he and Prime Minister Narendra Modi virtually kick-started the India-funded Greater Male Connectivity Project (GMCP), dubbed the largest infrastructure initiative in the island nation. Under this plan, a 6.74 km long bridge and causeway link will be built to connect the capital city Male with the adjoining islands of Villingli, Gulhifalhu, and Thilafushi.

Developing the water supply network

India is developing the Water Supply and Sewerage network across 34 islands of the Maldives. The project aims to enhance the water supply and sewerage facilities on the designated islands spanning across 16 atolls.

The project is expected to directly benefit 35,000 people who will have access to uninterrupted and safe water supply. The other beneficiaries include numerous others in the atolls/surrounding islands who are affected by water shortages during the dry season. These people will receive timely supplies, according to a report in The Economic Times (ET).

From airports to sports infrastructure How India is helping Maldives dream big

India is engaged in the development of the Gulhifalhu Port in the Maldives. The outlay of the project is $400 million.

The island nation’s main port in Male has one berth for cargo and is congested. Its handling capacity is stretched. The upcoming port at the nearby Gulhifalhu Island is expected to address this issue, according to a report in ET.

The port will be able to handle a capacity of 400,000 TEUs or 22-foot equivalent unit containers. It will also have a container terminal, general cargo terminal, port service quay, a warehouse, a domestic quay and an administration area, the report says.

The project is scheduled for completion in 2026 and is funded through the LoC facility provided by EXIM Bank.

From airports to sports infrastructure How India is helping Maldives dream big

A cancer hospital

India is building a 100-bed cancer hospital at Hulhumale, an island in the Maldives. The project includes a robust component of human resource development, the Indian embassy said when the announcement was made in 2020.

Until 2018, cancer care in the Maldives was handled by visiting oncologists from India. Even today, the island nation has a handful of cancer specialists. Many of its patients travel to India for advanced treatments under the public referral system called Aasandha, under which the Maldivian government funds treatments of its citizens overseas.

“We have been collaborating with many hospitals in India, especially in the south of the country. A lot of patients travel to these hospitals for their treatment and it has been a good partnership,” Dr Amru Ahmed, consultant oncologist at Male’s Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital told ETHealthworld last June.

A cricket stadium and other sports infrastructure

Hulhumale is also getting a modern cricket stadium courtesy of India. It will be equipped with the latest technology and will have the capacity to seat 22,000 spectators.

It was in March 2019, during then External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s bilateral visit that Maldivian authorities requested Indian assistance for the construction of a cricket stadium.

New Delhi is also helping in building a mega sporting infrastructure which will promote basketball, volleyball, table tennis, and netball, according to a report in WION.

India has offered USD 40 million LoC for sports infrastructure.

In the coming years, the island nation will witness a massive overhaul. And while Muizzu might be wooing China, the Maldives has several reasons to be thankful to India.

With inputs from agencies report by firstpost

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