India bringing Indian Ocean states closer through Neighbourhood First Policy
India has taken a series of initiatives to strengthen ties with countries like Maldives, Mauritius, and Sri Lanka
Through its Neighbourhood First policy, India has been working on various projects with smaller Indian Ocean states in areas ranging from healthcare to defence amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
India is the largest development partner for Mauritius, according to a report in the Hindustan Times, and has provided lines of credit worth $600 million at concessional terms, with focus on developmental projects. It said India is assisting in the building of healthcare facilities such as a renal unit, four medical clinics and two health centers.
Moreover, Mauritius is one of the largest beneficiaries of the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme, with 210 civilian and 169 defence training slots being offered to the country during 2018-19, the report said.
India has also been strengthening relations with Maldives and Sri Lanka. In regard to the former, India has revitalised its relationship after President Ibrahim Solih came to power. The two sides signed 18 agreements and MoUs, and new areas of cooperation including the judiciary, customs and healthcare, said the Hindustan Times report..
The report added that in December 2018, during Solih’s visit, India announced a financial aid package of $1.4 billion. This included budgetary support, investment in Maldives Monetary Authority’s treasury bills and a currency swap agreement.
In Sri Lanka, India is backing several developmental, connectivity and capacity-building projects. The total development assistance portfolio exceeds $3.45 billion, including $560 million in grant assistance. The Indian Housing Project to build 50,000 houses is the flagship grant assistance project, with over 48,600 houses built so far and 10,000 more houses to be built, said the report.