Greater Male Connectivity Project: What you need to know about New Delhi's $500 mn deal with Maldives

The largest infrastructure project in Maldives will involve the construction of a 6.74 km long bridge and causeway link connecting Male to Villingli, Gulhaifalhu and Thilafushi.

FP Staff August 27, 2021 08:55:11 IST
Greater Male Connectivity Project: What you need to know about New Delhi's $500 mn deal with Maldives

An artistic rendition of the Greater Male Connectivity Project in Maldives when it will be completed. ANI

In a boost to ties, India and Maldives signed a contract on the mega Greater Male Connectivity Project (GMCP), the largest infrastructure project in the country.

The project, funded by an Indian grant of $100 million and a Line of Credit of $400 million is also the biggest new development project by India in its neighbourhood in recent years.

The project, the largest in Maldives, will begin with the signing of the contract between the Maldives government and Indian infrastructure company AFCONS in Male.

The signing ceremony was attended by Ministers of National Planning and Infrastructure Mohamed Aslam, Minister of Economic Development Fayyaz Ismail, Minister of Finance Ibrahim Ameer, Minister of Transport Aishath Nahula, Indian High Commissioner Sunjay Sudhir and senior management from AFCONS.

Here's a look at all the details about this new project and what it means for India-Maldives relations.

The Greater Male Connectivity Project

The project involves the construction of a 6.74 kilometre bridge and causeway link connecting the capital Male with the adjoining islands of Villingli, Gulhaifalhu and Thilafushi.

The scheme is composed of three navigation bridges of 140 m main span across the deep channel between each island, 1.41 kilometre of marine viaduct in deep water, 2.32 kilometre marine viaduct in shallow water or on land, and 2.96 km of at-grade roads.

Greater Male Connectivity Project What you need to know about New Delhis 500 mn deal with Maldives

The Greater Male Connectivity Project will be the largest-ever infrastructure project in the Maldives. ANI

The project has been undertaken upon the request of Maldives president Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and foreign minister Abdulla Shahid during Union external affairs minister Dr S Jaishankar's visit to the Maldives in September 2019.

Maldives foreign minister Abdulla Shahid said, "This is a flagship project of President Solih's presidency. It will be an enduring symbol of the India-Maldives partnership. It is the largest infrastructure project to be executed in the country. This project will connect business, people, industry."

The project is not being viewed only as a connectivity link, but also an economic lifeline of the country as it will essentially connect four main islands of the country, where almost half of the Maldivian population lives. In a push for use of renewable energy, the project will use solar power for lighting purposes.

The GMCP project will be bigger than the 1.4-kilometre-long Sinamalé Bridge, built under Chinese assistance. It connects Malé with Hulhule’ and Hulhumalé and was completed in 2018.

India-Maldives ties improve

The GMCP project is a direct result of the 'India First' foreign policy of the Maldives and India’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ foreign policy.

Many experts on foreign relations state that this project would not have seen the light of day before 2018 with Maldives having a pronounced pro-China tilt under the Abdulla Yameen presidency. However, since President Solih assumed office in November 2018, India and the Maldives have forged strong bilateral ties.

Many also believe the project is a subtle way of edging out China's hegemony in the region and reasserting its presence.

The project will also help in currying favour in the country where anti-India sentiments haven't disappeared.

Last year, there was a media backlash against India, including an #IndiaOut campaign in social media. The reason behind the campaign stemmed from the fact that locals viewed the presence of India's military in the country as a threat.

India’s lending hand to Maldives

The GMCP is not the only binding tie between India and Maldives and India has extended support and financial assistance to Maldives.

During the coronavirus disease pandemic, India gave the Maldives government $250 million to mitigate the impact of the pandemic. It also handed over 1,00,000 COVID-19 vaccines to the country. Maldives, in turn, opened its borders to Indian citizens from 15 July and welcomed Indian tourists.

India has been involved in other infra projects of the country. This includes expansion of the airport at Hanimadhoo and Gan, Roads and Reclamation in Addu, expansion of fisheries plants, cricket stadium in Hulhumalé, water and sanitation project in 34 islands and road project in the Southern city of Addu.

With inputs from agencies

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