India’s aid package to Maldives will increase New Delhi’s visibility and rival China’s friendship bridge
With President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih in power, Maldives has restored traditional close relationship with India
India’s latest aid package, of US$500 million, to Maldives for the construction of a 6.7km bridge to connect four islands, which includes a loan and line of credit, is likely to act as a counter to Chinese influence over the island nation.
The Greater Male Connectivity Project will link capital Male with three islands - Villingili, Thilafushi and Gulhaifalhu. India is also constructing a port through a line of credit at Gulhaifalhu. The bridge was announced after talks between Indian External Affairs Minister S.Jaishankar and Maldivian Foreign Minister Abdullah Shahid last Thursday, said a report in The Straits Times.
It is to be noted that India’s bridge announcement comes two years after China constructed the US$200 million China-Maldives Friendship Bridge, which links Male to Hulhule, the airport island.
According to The Straits Times report, S. D Mani, a South Asia expert, said the Chinese have built the friendship bridge and also described it as fantastic in many ways. “It will depend on what India delivers to the Maldives. So far as investments, it is welcome. We will see later on whether we have produced a product which can compete with the Chinese. It is for India to consolidate these gains,” the report quoted him.
Regional analysts point out that Maldives has traditionally followed an ‘India First policy’, but it turned towards China under former president Abdullah Yameen’s governance. Now, with President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih in power, Maldives has restored its traditional close relationship with India.