India Imposes Port Restrictions on Essential Exports to the Maldives

The Indian government has tightened export regulations for essential commodities bound for the Maldives. The Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) issued a notification outlining port restrictions for the export of items designated as prohibited or restricted.

Under the new policy, essential exports to the Maldives will only be permitted through four designated customs stations: Mundra Sea Port, Tuticorin Sea Port, Nhava Sheva Sea Port, and the ICD Tughlakabad. This represents a change from previous regulations that allowed for more flexibility.

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The move comes amidst strained relations between India and the Maldives. India previously imposed export restrictions on several staple goods, including onions, potatoes, eggs, rice, and sugar. However, these restrictions were eased for the Maldives under India’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy.

Despite the recent tensions, this year India granted the Maldives the highest import quota for these essential commodities under the 1981 bilateral trade agreement. India has also increased its export quota for construction materials to the Maldives by 25%, permitting the export of 1,000 metric tons.

India’s export restrictions on essential goods are not unique to the Maldives. In 2022, India restricted flour exports and in December 2023 placed limits on onion exports. However, close allies such as Bangladesh, the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, and the Maldives have been granted exemptions.

The recent changes in export policy towards the Maldives follow the ‘India Out’ campaign championed by the administration of President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu. As part of efforts to diversify supply chains, the Maldives government has actively pursued agreements with Turkey for the import of staples like rice, flour, and sugar. Additionally, discussions are underway to facilitate access to the Maldivian national health insurance scheme, Aasandha, in the UAE and Thailand.

Since the Maldives’ regime change in November 2023, diplomatic relations with India have deteriorated, with recent derogatory comments made against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi by senior Maldivian officials further exacerbating the strained relationship.

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