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SOURCE: Tribune News Service

India on Sunday handed over emergency financial aid of $250 million to the Maldives, 10 days after the US signed an agreement with the island nation to develop military ties.

India has gone the extra mile to help the Maldives whose economy is projected to contact by 8 per cent this year. The RBI raised Treasury Bonds which were sold to the State Bank of India (SBI), Male, for handover to the Maldives government, the Indian Embassy said in a statement.

Sources said the two recent developments by US and India in this critical Indian Ocean island country will be the shape of things to come in India’s neighbourhood to match Chinese deep pockets.

This was a reversal of the situation in 2013 when India fought tooth and nail to keep away the US from entering into a security partnership with the Maldives. The UPA government had then assessed that American entry would give rise to misgivings at a time when it thought India and China could co-exist in the Indian Ocean.

Earlier in 1983, the Indira Gandhi government had kicked up a row when the US sought to renew lease on a Sri Lankan transmitter. Located in Trincomalee, New Delhi thought the CIA also used it for intelligence gathering. 

India was in an unfavourable situation in the Maldives after the 2013 elections when China began muscling in. The situation changed after an India-friendly regime won back power in 2018. But it was after the Galwan Valley clash that India tilted in favour of permitting the US to counter China with a defence framework agreement with the Maldives which will be fleshed out in due course, said the sources.

India has had an extra sympathetic attitude towards the Maldives during the pandemic. A medical team reached Male in March to help with Covid-preparedness, and nearly 12 lakh tonnes of medicines and 580 tonnes of food aid was provided.

Now, with the intention to deny space to China which has embarked on a worldwide Covid diplomacy, medical teams will be sent to the Maldives on short-term contracts to reinforce the health system.