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India-Maldives: Inching Closer

For India connectivity through Blue-water for trade with Maldives is indeed a ‘new landmark’ in bilateral relationship

Maldives and India have achieved a ‘new landmark’ in Regional Connectivity with the commencement of Direct Cargo Ferry Service between the two countries.

It is a strategically vital development and a step forward in improvement of ties between the two countries.

The ferry service, which was first announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in June 2019 during his visit to Maldives immediately after swearing in for the second term, was launched in an e-flag off ceremony jointly by India’s Minister of Shipping, Mansukh Mandaviya, and Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation of Maldives Ms Aishath Nahula.

“This is the first time that a direct cargo shipping line is connecting the two neighbouring countries, a senior
official said.

Currently, maximum imports to Male originate from Dubai, China, Singapore and Colombo, where Dubai, Singapore and Colombo are mostly transhipment ports. A direct and reliable service will provide an alternate and cost effective way of transportation of goods from India to Maldives.

Shipping Minister Mansukhbhai Mandaviya inaugurating first ferry service between India and Maldives in a virtual event
Shipping Minister Mansukh Bhai Mandaviya Inaugurating First Ferry Service Between India and Maldives in a Virtual Event

Cargo Ferry Between India and Maldives

Commencement of the maiden cargo ferry service between India and Maldives was formally announced by the External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar during his virtual meeting with the Foreign Minister of Maldives Abdulla Shahid on August 13, 2020.

The ferry service will run twice a month. It will be operated by Shipping Corporation of India ship on a vessel with a capacity of 380 TEUs.

The ferry will herald direct connectivity for movement of cargo between India and Maldives and thereby give a boost to bilateral trade, sources said.

“Despite geographical proximity, India is currently only the 4th largest trade partner of Maldives. Maldives imports more from UAE, China and Singapore implying that bilateral trade with India is not commensurate with its potential,” the source explained.

It may be mentioned that Prime Minister Modi’s foreign policy has remained personality focus with himself trying to strike personal rapport with leadership in countries like the Maldives, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia besides the top countries including from the US, France, Japan, Russia and African nations.

Last month in a tweet, Modi wrote: “Our special friendship (India-Maldives) is, and will always remain, as deep as the waters of the Indian Ocean”.

India’s bilateral trade has hovered around US$ 280 million annually for some years now and stood at US$ 286.85 million in 2019.

How Direct Ferry Would Help

Direct ferry will reduce transportation cost, provide a timely, short and cost effective means of transportation for goods from India to Maldives and thereby help push up more trades between the two countries.

The ferry has cold storage facility, which will also allow more exports from Maldives of tuna fish and other marine food items which are a specialty of Maldives, the source said.

Since Maldives is a 100 percent import dependent country, improved connectivity between India and Maldives will help boost bilateral trade and help economic activity in Maldives, already reeling under the disruption brought about by the Covid19.

By Nirendra Dev

(He is a Delhi based senior journalist and author of books including ‘The Talking Guns: North East India’ and writes on strategic and foreign policy issues) 

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