First Maldives-India Meet:Historical relation between Maldives-India

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May 11, 2024

First Maldives-India Meet:Historical relation between Maldives-India

In a veiled reference to the pro-China tilt of the Maldives government led by President Mohamed Muizzu, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar told his Maldivian counterpart Moosa Zameer Thursday that the development of India-Maldives ties was based on “mutual interests” and “reciprocal sensitivity” given that they are “close and proximate neighbours”.

The Maldives Foreign Minister and Jaishankar met in New Delhi a day ahead of the May 10 deadline set by President Muizzu for India to withdraw its military personnel from the island nation. Zameer’s visit is the first high-level visit to India after Muizzu came to power last November.


India and the Maldives have a long history of trade relations, dating back centuries. Here’s a glimpse into this historical connection:

Early Trade:

  • Ancient Routes: The Maldives were strategically located on ancient trade routes between India, Sri Lanka, and Southeast Asia. They likely played a role in the exchange of goods like spices, coir (coconut fiber), and cowrie shells .

Colonial Era:

  • British Influence: During the British Raj, trade between India and the Maldives intensified. The Maldives became a protectorate of Britain, which likely influenced trade patterns .
  • Focus on Traditional Goods: The trade likely centered on essential commodities like rice, textiles, and salt from India, while the Maldives might have exported fish, coir products, and seashells [1].

Post-Independence (India 1947, Maldives 1965):

  • Close Partnership: Following independence, India emerged as a key trading partner for the Maldives. India provided essential supplies and supported the Maldivian economy .
  • Shifting Trade Landscape: Trade gradually diversified to include a wider range of goods. India started exporting manufactured goods, machinery, and pharmaceuticals, while Maldivian exports likely included fish products and handicrafts .

Modern-Day Trade:

  • India’s Dominant Role: Today, India remains the Maldives’ largest trading partner, though China’s influence is growing .
  • Current Trade Composition: Indian exports to the Maldives primarily consist of food products, textiles, construction materials, and medicine. The Maldives mainly exports scrap metal to India .

Challenges and Considerations:

  • Trade Imbalance: A significant concern is the trade imbalance heavily favoring India. This can create economic disadvantages for the Maldives .
  • Limited Diversification: The Maldives’ limited export options contribute to the imbalance. Developing new export industries could be beneficial .

Looking Ahead:

  • Free Trade Agreement: Exploring a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with India could offer the Maldives some advantages, similar to the one they are considering with China .
  • Focus on Mutual Benefits: Future trade relations need to focus on creating a more balanced and mutually beneficial exchange for both nations.


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First Maldives-India Meet:Historical relation between Maldives-India | Vaid ICS Institute