MALE, Maldives – A confidential letter detailing the discussions and proposed terms of agreement between India and the Maldives has been obtained by The Maldives Journal. This document, addressed to Maldivian Foreign Minister Abdullah Shahid by Indian FM Jaishankar, unveils plans that could reshape the strategic and financial relationship between the two countries.
The most notable point of concern is India's proposal to lease 15 hectares of land on HDh. Hanimaadhoo and S. Gan, both adjacent to the islands' international airports. This 99-year renewable lease, potentially impinging upon Maldivian sovereignty, is accompanied by a massive credit line of USD 1,940,000,000. Critics argue such a move may place the Maldives in a precarious economic position, potentially undermining its autonomy.
The document further confirms discussions on amending a bilateral agreement focusing on maritime security and the development of the MNDF Coast Guard harbour at Uthuru Thilafalhu (UTF). This reconstitution of the joint Project Monitoring Committee, aimed at recognizing the Maldives as the host country, raises questions about the balance of power and benefits in this partnership.
Another major revelation is the reassessment of repayments concerning Lines of Credit extended by the Export Import Bank of India (India Exim Bank) since 2019. These credits have been tied to the development of aerial military and surveillance capabilities of the MNDF in its northern and southern commands.
Additionally, India's commitment to supply the Maldives with a fleet of UAVs, with an additional credit line worth USD 550,000,000 for 11 more aircraft, might sound like a significant defense boost. Yet, it begs the question – how much of this defense capability remains under Maldivian control, and how much under external influence?
The leaked letter, portraying a waiver of sovereign debt, attempts to frame these agreements as economically beneficial for the Maldives. However, economic analysts and sovereignty advocates alike might argue that such moves come with their own sets of strings attached.
This exclusive revelation urges the Maldivian citizens and officials to scrutinize the terms of such agreements closely, ensuring the protection of national sovereignty and interests.