Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh visited Maldives for laying down foundation for the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) Ekatha harbour which is one of the largest grant in aid from India for Maldivian defence Forces. Ostensibly it will develop the coast guard harbour and repair facility at Sifavaru for Maldivian coast guard. Singh also handed over two naval platforms to his Maldivian counterpart one fast patrol craft and a landing craft. In Nov last year India gave a grant of $100 million to Maldives to assist it in managing difficult economic situation. Importantly this aid was without any conditions attached. India’s grant was a free cheque for the island nation to use it the way it wants.
India’s neighbourhood first policy has ensured India maintain it’s focus on it’s smaller partners in the region. This has helped it respond quickly to emerging domestic challenges. The list includes large number of countries which have benefitted from Indian support. Srilanka recently was one such beneficiary when India became the first country to give commitment to IMF for sealing it’s financial support package. With China’s aggressive push for influence across Asia and Indian Ocean Region in particular, the region has seen jostling for competing interests.
India and Maldives have historical relations as Maldives has emerged as one of the key partners of India in the Indian Ocean Region. It offers a strategic foothold highly important for Indian Navy’s operations in the Indian Ocean. India’s stated commitment of assistance without interference has been highly appreciated by it’s friends. It has placed India as the preferred partner. This is in stark contrast to the list of conditions attached with predatory loans being offered by China. India needs to continue it’s outreach in the neighbourhood. Benefits of India’s own growth must reach it’s friends and partners.