What’s in the news?
- During a recent meeting held between External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Maldives Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid, India committed to Maldives a five-pronged package including infrastructure worth $500 million, a direct cargo ferry service, creation of an air travel bubble, uninterrupted supply of essential commodities and additional financial aid of $250 million to help the cash-strapped economy.
- Responding to a request from the Maldives government, India also decided to support the implementation of Greater Malé Connectivity Project (GMCP) through a financial package consisting of a grant of $100 million and a new line of credit of $400 million.
- This will be the largest civilian infrastructure project in Maldives, connecting Malé (the capital) with three neighbouring islands — Villingili, Gulhifalhu (where a port is being built under Indian line of credit) and Thilafushi (new industrial zone) – by construction of a bridge-and-causeway link spanning 6.7 km.
- The air travel bubble between India and Maldives is expected to facilitate movement of people for employment, tourism and medical emergencies. Maldives is the first neighbouring country with which an air bubble is being operationalised.
- ‘Air bubble’ is a bilateral agreement between India and other countries that allows both to fly their national carriers to and from each other’s soil. The nations under this deal have eased entry restrictions.
- The recent announcements indicate stepping up of New Delhi’s diplomatic efforts in a region China has also been focusing recently.
- The Indian Ocean island nation, popular with tourists for its beaches and turquoise waters, has become a focal point in China’s Belt and Road Initiative aimed at building trade and transport links across the region.