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India’s ₹771 crore boost to Maldives amidst troop controversy

The move comes in despite strained relationes between the nations because of Muizzu's Anti-India and Pro-China stance

India has announced an increase in development aid to the Maldives amidst tensions over President Mohamed Muizzu’s call for Indian troops to leave. The move comes as both India and China seek to strengthen ties with the Indo-Pacific nation. The Maldives has historically had a close relationship with India but has recently shifted its focus towards China under Muizzu’s leadership.

New Delhi has allocated nearly ₹7.71 billion ($93 million) for various development projects in the Maldives for the current fiscal year, almost double the originally 400 crore budgeted amount. Despite the strained relations following President Muizzu’s call to end the country’s “India First” policy and removal of 80 Indian troops, India remains committed to supporting development in the Maldives.

An Indian official, speaking anonymously, said that development cooperation between India and the Maldives remains strong, with projects moving forward quickly. This progress is due to India’s increased funding for the Maldives in the current fiscal year.

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Key projects supported by India include a $500-million project for road and bridge construction around Male, the capital of the Maldives, as well as investments in airport infrastructure in remote islands, backed by Indian lines of credit. These efforts underscore India’s commitment to bolstering infrastructure and connectivity in the Maldives.

President Muizzu’s recent visit to Beijing has raised eyebrows in New Delhi, especially amidst ongoing tensions over the presence of Indian troops in the Maldives. However, both countries have agreed to replace Indian troops with Indian aid workers by May, highlighting the multifaceted nature of India’s engagement with the Maldives.

Despite India’s concerns about Male’s growing engagement with Beijing, including allowing a Chinese research vessel to dock at its port, New Delhi remains focused on safeguarding its interests in the Indian Ocean region. The increased development assistance to the Maldives reflects India’s strategic interests and its desire to maintain influence in the region amidst evolving geopolitical dynamics.

According to Indian budget documents, spending on Maldivian projects has seen a significant increase from ₹1.83 billion in the previous fiscal year to ₹7.71 billion in the current year, making the Maldives the second-highest recipient of Indian aid after Bhutan. India has set aside ₹6 billion for Maldivian projects for the upcoming fiscal year, reaffirming its long-term commitment to the island nation’s development.

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