India links with Maldives with uber connectivity project
India will on Thursday sign the largest-ever infrastructure project in the Maldives. The Greater Male Connectivity Project (GMCP) will be developed by Maharashtra-based construction and engineering company Afcons, which will sign the agreement with the government of Maldives.
The signing ceremony will be attended by foreign secretary Harsh Shringla, Indian ambassador Sunjay Sudhir and four Maldivian ministers.
The GMCP project is considered as the economic lifeline for the Maldives and will provide a major boost to connectivity between the four islands accounting for about half of the Maldivian population. It is being built on the request of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and foreign minister Abdulla Shahid during the visit of external affairs minister Dr S Jaishankar to Maldives in September 2019.
The 6.74 km long bridge and causeway link will connect Maldives' capital Male with adjoining islands of Villingli, Gulhifalhu and Thilafushi. The project has been funded under Indian grant of $100 million and line of credit of $400 million.
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.
It comprises of three navigation bridges of 140 metre main span across the deep channel between each island, 1.41 km of marine viaduct in deep water, 2.32 km marine viaduct in shallow water or on land, and 2.96 km of at-grade roads. In a push for use of renewable energy, the project will use solar power for lighting purposes.
Since President Solih assumed office in November 2018, India and the Maldives have forged strong bilateral ties. India has offered assistance to Maldives from time to time and during the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, it supplied vaccines and economic support to the island nation.
During Solih's first visit to India in December 2018, an economic package of $1.4 billion was announced. This included a line of credit of $800 million for airport expansion, building roads and water and sanitation plants, a state-of-the-art cricket stadium and a police academy. India has also undertaken 30 community-oriented projects in Maldives, out of which 13 have been inaugurated and the rest are expected to be completed by December this year.
Maldives is the first country in South Asia with which India started an air travel bubble during Covid-19. Today, there are about 60 weekly flights connecting Malé with five Indian cities. The assistance being offered by India have been aligned to Maldives' priorities, including regional development and decentralisation.