External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar is on a swing through key Indian Ocean states, beginning with the Maldives today and tomorrow followed by Mauritius. In Male, several Memorandums of Understanding and agreements are to be signed. He’s likely to be present at the inauguration of the new Police Academy on Addu atoll built with a grant of $33 million from India. He will review progress of the flagship Greater Male Connectivity Project, a nearly 7-km-long bridge linking up the Gulhifalhu port and the Thilafushi industrial zone. The $500 million cost of the project is being financed by India. India has already supplied 100,000 doses of COVID vaccine to the Maldives in January and an air travel bubble has pushed tourist inflows from India to the number one spot in 2020 and the first two months of 2021. India also gave $250 million financial assistance to the Maldives in September 2020 on concessional terms.
His next stop is Mauritius, off the east African coast, where the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and Partnership Agreement could be signed. It is a ‘limited’ agreement covering trade in both goods and services with preferential access to both markets in selected products and will allow the unrestricted movement of skilled professionals.
Jaishankar was in Sri Lanka only last month. Also important to note that India is targeting the Indian Ocean states for sales of its defence equipment. While defence budgets in these countries are small, India has supplied them with patrol boats and helicopters and helped with training their police and military.