India will fund the implementation of a major connectivity project in Maldives through a USD 400 million line of credit and USD 100 million grant, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on 13 August 2020 after holding wide-ranging talks with his Maldivian counterpart Abdulla Shahid. The 6.7 km Greater Male Connectivity Project (GMCP) will be the largest civilian infrastructure project in Maldives, connecting Male with three neighbouring islands - Villingili, Gulhifahu and Thilafushi.
What
  1. GMCP was a key election promise of the ruling MDP for which the President of Maldives Ibrahim Mohamed Solih sought India's assistance during his meeting with Jaishankar in September last year.
  2. India will fund the implementation of Greater Male Connectivity Project through a USD 400 mn LOC & USD 100 mn grant. This 6.7 km bridge project connecting Male with Gulhifalhu Port & Thilafushi industrial zone will help revitalise and transform Maldivian economy.
  3. He also announced the start of regular cargo ferry service between India and Maldives to boost trade and commerce between the two countries.
  4. Once completed, this landmark project will streamline connectivity between the four islands, thereby boosting economic activity, generating employment and promoting holistic urban development in the Male region. India is also extending financial support for construction of a port in Gulhifahu.
  5. The cargo ferry service will enhance sea connectivity and provide predictability in supplies for importers in Maldives and exporters in India. It will also reduce logistics costs and times for traders.
  6. The air bubble symbolises India's support to shore up tourism arrivals and revenues in the Maldives. Health protocols in both countries will be strictly followed. The first flight under the Air Bubble is expected to commence on August 18.
  7. In the meeting, Jaishankar also conveyed to Shahid India's decision to renew quotas for supply of essential commodities to Maldives for the year 2020-21.
  8. The commodities include food items like potatoes, onions, rice, wheat, flour, sugar, dal and eggs as well as river sand and stone aggregates. 
  9. The quotas assure food security, and the supply of essential construction items, and thereby provide certainty and price stability for such essential items in the Maldives.
Flashpoint
  1. President of Maldives, Ibrahim Mohammad had sought India’s assistance for GMCP during his meeting with S Jaishankar in September 2019. This step was also seen as a key election promise of the ruling MDP (Maldivian Democratic Party) in the Maldives.
  2. The GMCP Project will include the construction of a bridge and causeway link spanning 6.7 km.
  3. The 6.7 km bridge project connecting Male with Gulhifahu port and Thilafushi industrial zone will help in transforming the Maldivian economy.
  4. External Affairs Minister also announced a start of regular cargo ferry service between India and Maldives for boosting trade and commerce between the two countries.
  5. There will also be an air travel bubble with the Maldives to promote and sustain the dynamic people-to-people ties between India and Maldives.
  6. India has also decided to extend the financial support for the construction of a port in Gulhifahu.