The Mohamed Muizzu administration has issued notice to the Government of India to cancel the Hydrography Agreement signed between India and the Maldives.

During a press conference at the President’s Office on Thursday, Under Secretary for Public Policy Mohamed Firzul Abdulla Khaleel said that, according to the agreement, a six-month notice must be given if the agreement is to be cancelled.

Notice has now been given and the agreement will terminate on 4 June 2024, he said.

The Hydrography Agreement was signed between Maldives and India on 8 June 2019 to identify the characteristics of Maldives’ seas and marine ecosystem, and included establishing a special headquarters and facilities for hydrography within the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF).

A review and refocus of Ibrahim Mohamed Solih administration’s agreements with other countries, which have been deemed intrusive on the Maldives’ independence and sovereignty, was a pledge by the President detailed in the ‘Week 14’, or first 100 days, manifesto.

Under the review the agreement has been flagged as potentially infringing on the Maldives’ sovereignty, Khaleel said.

According to Khaleel, the agreement, if not cancelled, would automatically extend for five years.

… Our coastal information is a proprietary piece of information that has been regarded as our capital, our secret, since time immemorial by our ancestors, and we have treated it as such.

Under Secretary for Public Policy at The President’s Office, Mohamed Firzul Abdulla Khaleel, explaining the Muizzu administration’s move to cancel the Hydrography Agreement between the Maldives and India.

The wisest course of action, according to Khaleel, would be to establish the capacity to collect coastal information within the MNDF and conduct the work under the supervision of the Maldives’ own security apparatus with no external involvement.

Both nations have the opportunity to take financial advantage of the oceanographic knowledge drawn from carrying out hydrographic surveys. However, by all appearances India stands to benefit more in terms of royalties — a 35 percent commission is drawn by the Maldives for sales of such information to Maldivian interests, with a 25 percent commission drawn should India sell to foreign interests.

An Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was initially signed on 8 June 2019 during an official visit to the Maldives by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Subsequently, an Indian delegation arrived in the Maldives on 26 September 2019 to conduct the first Joint Committee meeting, and the Maldives Hydrographic Service was established on 7 March 2022.

The Maldives, for the first time, participated as an observer in the 20th North Indian Ocean Hydrographic Commission meeting in July 2021.

The Hydrography Agreement has continued to draw strong criticism, starting during the Solih administration, from the then opposition, which is now in government.