[Editorial Analysis] To a new high in Maldives

Mains Paper 2 : India and Its Neighborhood – Relations

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Reclaiming ties with India’s neighborhood in light of China’s increasing interference

Context

• The Maldives is about to welcome a new dawn, a golden yellow dawn,” former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed told supporters in Malé Saturday as preliminary results indicated a huge majority for his party.

• The colour of Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) is a bright yellow.

• The MDP, led by one of Nasheed’s closest associates and now President, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, has won 65 seats in the 87-member People’s Majlis.

• Nasheed became the first former President of the Maldives to have won the parliamentary elections, and the MDP the first party to win a two-thirds majority since multi-party elections were introduced with the country’s 2008 Constitution.

• The MDP had won 26 seats each in the 2009 and 2014 elections.

• In 2009, it formed the government with the help of coalition
partners.

• In 2014, the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) of former President Abdulla Yameen won 33 seats, and reached a majority after several MPs joined the party.

Constitutional change

• The scale of the victory has put Nasheed-Solih in a position to drive decisive change in the Maldives.

• On top of Nasheed’s agenda is converting the Presidential form of government into a Parliamentary one he is among many who feel that an executive Presidency is unsuitable for a small country with deeply polarised and fractious politics.

• Nasheed has often spoken about moving to a Parliamentary system, and its parliamentary supermajority will allow the MDP to push through the required amendment in the Constitution.

MDP’s Agenda 19

• The MDP campaigned for its “Agenda 19” with Solih telling rallies that to implement Agenda 19, which detailed the party’s pledges, it was essential to have MPs who would support the government and accept Agenda 19.

• The Agenda consists of 19 concept papers that will form the basis of the MDP’s legislative agenda including Bills to introduce a minimum wage, unemployment benefits, and a personal income-tax.

• Among the MDP’s other priorities are strengthening the asset disclosure regime, pursuing transitional justice, and reforming the judiciary.

• Prime Minister Narendra Modi travelled to the Maldives for his inauguration in November last year, and the President visited India the following month.

• In March, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj travelled to the Maldives and signalled New Delhi’s commitment to strengthening the relationship between the two countries irrespective of the outcome of the Lok Sabha elections.

• India had announced financial assistance of $1.4 billion for the island nation in December.

Debt to Chinese

• Chinese loans for projects account for around 70% of the Maldives’ national debt, and New Delhi’s economic help outreach is key to helping Male break free of Beijing’s “debt-for-leverage” model of diplomacy.

• China’s infrastructure projects in the Maldives included a bridge linking Malé and the airport, and construction of housing units.

• The Chinese debt is estimated to be between $1.5 billion and $3 billion, and the Solih government is still trying to figure out the contours of the country’s “dire economic situation”.

Indian Ocean allies

• Mindful of Chinese assertiveness, and their interlinked security interests in the Indian Ocean Region, New Delhi and Malé have agreed on the importance of maintaining peace and stability in the region. They will enhance maritime security in the region through “coordinated patrolling and aerial surveillance, exchange of information and capacity building”.

• The two sides have also expressed their “unwavering commitment and support” for increased cooperation in combating terrorism in all its forms and manifestations both within the region and elsewhere.

Way forward

• This is an important commitment, since Maldives has seen the rise of Islamist fundamentalism over the last few years, and it is said to have sent 50-200 fighters to the Islamic State among the world’s biggest per-capita suppliers of foreign fighters to the terrorist group. Civil society has witnessed the rise of religious intolerance and violent extremism.

• A new agreement on visa facilitation is aimed at addressing common concerns and ensuring that people-to-people contacts are enhanced.

• The Maldives is one of the very few countries with which India has a visa-free travel arrangement.

• The recently signed pact will allow many Maldivians who send their children to school in India, to accompany them, and will facilitate easier travel for Maldivians to India for medical treatment.

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Prelims Questions:

Q.1) With reference to the Nuclear Command Authority (NCA), consider the following statements:

1. NCA is responsible for deciding on the deployment of nuclear weapons in India.

2. Its executive council is chaired by the Prime minister of India.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: A

Mains Questions:

Q.1) Are these committees indicative of a newfound ‘national security consciousness’ in the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government today? Critically examine.

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