New Delhi: On ‘The Gist‘, Abdulla Shahid, the Foreign Minister of Maldives, in discussion with StratNews Global Associate Editor Amitabh P. Revi. In this conversation recorded on July 12, 2023, Minister Shahid says, “the range of cooperation between the Maldives and India in the last four years(of President Ibu Solih’s first term) has been phenomenal”, adding, “one of the most important thing that assisted us in bringing back our economy around was the bubble travel arrangement which was offered by India to us reviving tourism. There was a point in time, the newspapers reported that there were more Bollywood stars in Maldives than in Bollywood! That gave a high profile to the Maldives and (helped) tourism return to a degree of normalcy. We are very happy that today we have not only surpassed pre-COVID numbers, the numbers are very, very promising.” The Minster discusses the Greater Malé connectivity project, a 6.74 km-long bridge and causeway link between the capital Malé and nearby islands of Villingli, Gulhifalhu and Thilafushi, that is funded by an Indian grant of $100 million and a Line of Credit of $400 million. It is the biggest infrastructure project in the Maldives. He acknowledges “the project is behind schedule, due to unforeseen circumstances” and adds, External Affairs Minister Dr S. Jaishankar and he “discussed how we can fast track the delays and overcome them”, adding, “it will stand as a great testament to this outstanding relationship between our two countries.” Minister Shahid says the Coast Guard ‘Ekatha Harbour’ at Sifavaru in Uthuru Thila Falhu (UTF) atoll, which Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and his Maldivian counterpart, Mariya Didi laid the foundation stone for in May is “on track” in the timeline for its completion. Watch this interview for more on the Minister talking about India, China, U.S. power competition in the Maldives, the ‘3 Ps’ of Maldivian foreign policy: principles, pragmatism and priorities, being a large ocean state not a small developing island, the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) ruling on the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) dispute with Mauritius and whether the government changed its stand on Chagos, the split in the ruling party, the campaign for President Solih’s second term and whether a combined opposition, potentially with former Presidents Nasheed and Yameen fighting electorally against the government, will impact the result.
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