Agreements and Developments in India-Maldives Relations

Agreements and Developments in India-Maldives Relations

After being sworn in, Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu in New Delhi to review various agreements between the two nations. These agreements encompassed a hydrography agreement, the Uthuru Thila Falhu Dockyard project, and the donation of a Dornier aircraft to the Maldives Defence Forces for humanitarian and search and rescue purposes. While these agreements were established during President Solih's administration, they have recently come under review by the Maldivian Parliament's Security Services Committee, also known as the Parliament 241 Committee, with concerns raised about their potential impact on the country's sovereignty and independence.

One of the agreements under scrutiny is the hydrographic survey agreement that was not renewed by President Muizzu's administration, expiring on June 7, 2024. This agreement was initially signed during Prime Minister Modi's visit to the Maldives in 2019, allowing India to conduct comprehensive surveys of the Maldives' territorial waters. These hydrographic surveys, which involve ships equipped with tools like sonar, aim to investigate various aspects of water bodies, such as water depth, seafloor shapes, and potential obstructions, ensuring maritime safety and efficiency.

The collaborative efforts between India and the Maldives in the field of hydrography continued with the inaugural meeting of the Joint Commission on Hydrography in September 2019, followed by joint hydrographic surveys conducted by Indian Naval Ship (INS) Darshak in early 2021. These surveys, utilizing advanced technologies like multi-beam echo sounders and including tidal measurements, aimed to update Navigational Charts/Electronic Navigational Charts for sectors like tourism, fishing, and agriculture. Additionally, an agreement was reached in February 2021 to develop a coastguard harbour and dockyard at the Uthuru Thila Falhu naval base, focusing on enhancing the Maldives Defence Forces' capabilities in maritime surveillance without the stationing of Indian military personnel at the base.

In a move to strengthen defence ties, the Maldives received a Dornier Maritime Surveillance aircraft from the Indian Navy in September 2020, aimed at assisting in maritime and exclusive economic zone surveillance, humanitarian missions, and identifying foreign vessels in the northern atolls. However, despite its intended purposes, the aircraft remains unused due to a lack of trained personnel in the Maldives to operate it, representing a current challenge in the bilateral defence cooperation between the two nations.