The Indian government, in its budget for the next fiscal year, has proposed to provide US$72 million in aid to the Maldives. This was revealed as India’s Minister of Finance Nirmala Sitharaman presented the 2024/2025 budget at the nation’s Parliament on Thursday. India’s financial year is counted starting April and ending in March of the following year.

According to the budget, it was proposed that the Maldives would receive the second-largest amount of grant aid from India, only preceded by Bhutan which is proposed to receive the highest grant aid from the regional giant.

India’s initial allocation earmarked for the Maldives for the 2023/2024 fiscal year was estimated at US$48.1 million. However, with adjustments, the figure increased to US$72 million. India, in its 2022/2023 fiscal year allocation, had provided US$22 million in grant aid to the Maldives.

India’s grant aid is expected to cover projects that include the Thilamalé Bridge project, the Hanimaadhoo International Airport project, and the housing project at Hulhumalé which is going ahead through two Indian companies.

The Thilamalé Bridge is to receive US$100 million in grant funding from the Government of India. Other projects, which will source funding through loans from Exim Bank of India, have also been facilitated through the government of India.

The previous Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)-led administration had maintained strong relations with India, vociferously adapting an India First policy. However, relations between the two neighbours visibly soured leading up to and after President Mohamed Muizzu’s first official visit to China, before first visiting India, and signing 20 Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) with several Chinese government-backed interests. Disparaging comments related to India and Indian officials by Muizzu administration political appointees continue to exacerbate relations as prominent Indian figures join the fray, with both sides seemingly refusing to back down and exercise statesmanship by addressing a decades-long mutually beneficial relationship in a mature tone.

Meanwhile, the Muizzu administration continues to domestically signal a drastic reduction in, if not total elimination of, dependence on India across various sectors.