NEW DELHI: India has been a pillar of support and assistance to the Maldives during the COVID-19 crisis, India’s High Commissioner Sunjay Sudhir tells StratNews Global Associate Editor Amitabh P. Revi. India has transferred to the Maldives, $150 million of the $400 million available under the bilateral currency swap agreement. This will enable Maldives to stabilise exchange rates and ease the liquidity requirement. He said that a 14 member rapid reaction medical team from India has already completed its work on the island and essential supplies and medicines to the 1,200 island archipelago will continue to be moved by air and sea.
He said under Operation Sanjeevani, the air force transported critical medicines and equipment from three different locations, Delhi, Madurai, Chennai and Mumbai, and flew them out to Male within 18 hours of the request being made, and at a time when India was under lockdown. On the 27,000 Indians on the island, most of them confined to various resorts that are now shut, preparations to fly them home will have to wait Delhi’s formal clearance.
High Commissioner Sudhir said the difference between India and other countries when it comes to the Maldives, is Delhi’s history as first responder, whether it was to put down the 1988 coup during Operation Cactus, or assistance during the 2004 tsunami and help during the 2014-15 water crisis. That translates into India’s capacity and willingness today to go the extra mile. He said work on 10 coastal radars India has promised the Maldives would be ready in a couple of months once pressure on the pandemic front eased.
As of April 1, the Maldives has had one death among 475 confirmed cases with 17 recoveries, 6 people hospitalised, 1,195 quarantined, and 320 in isolation. The archipelago has an estimated 450,000 population with about 120,000 in Malé, one of the most densely populated places in the world.
High Commissioner Sudhir also talked about the Islamic State’s recent claim to an attack in the Maldives. Although a small country with a small population, there are a large number of Maldivians who joined the Islamic State.
Before taking over in the Maldives, Mr. Sudhir was Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas where he headed the International Cooperation Division. He was Consul General of India in Sydney, worked in the office of the minister of external affairs and served in India’s missions in Colombo, Cairo and Damascus.