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8 Apr, 2024 12:35

India loosens onion export ban to help neighbors – report

New Delhi is now set to ship thousands of tonnes of onions to the UAE and Sri Lanka, after approving essential supplies to Maldives
India loosens onion export ban to help neighbors – report

India is gearing up to supply thousands of metric tonnes of onions to Sri Lanka and UAE, days after it approved limited exports of essential commodities to the Maldives, despite ties between New Delhi and Malé remain tense amid China’s rising influence in the region.

New Delhi is planning to supply thousands of metric tons of onions to Sri Lanka and the United Arab Emirates, The Hindustan Times reported on Monday. According to the newspaper, India has supplied 10,000 metric tons of onions over and above the agreed 14,400-ton cap.

The world’s largest global exporter of onions, India has either banned or limited export permits for the in-demand vegetable, as well as for rice, wheat flour, pulses, and sugar, since last December. Subsequently, onion prices are believed to have risen dramatically in neighboring countries that have depended on onion imports from India to meet their domestic demand. Through a “special quota” arrangement, the Indian government recently allowed exports to Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Bahrain, and Bhutan.

Last week, New Delhi announced it was allowing the export to Maldives of onions and essential items such as eggs, potatoes, rice, wheat flour, sugar, dal (processed pulses), stone aggregate, and river sand. Shipments began on April 1 and will be “exempted from any existing or future restriction/prohibition on export” in the 2024-25 financial year, the government said.

Maldives Foreign Minister Moosa Zameer has thanked India for renewing the quota of essential supplies. In response, Indian Foreign Minister Subhramanyam Jaishankar stressed that India is committed to its “neighbourhood first” and SAGAR policies. The Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR) is India’s policy or doctrine of maritime cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

The granting to Maldives an exception to the export restrictions stands out, as the countries are locked in a diplomatic dispute after Malé asked New Delhi to withdraw around 80 military personnel who have been stationed in the archipelago. The mission was operating three Indian aviation platforms that had been providing humanitarian and medical evacuation services.

Mohamed Muizzu, Maldives’ new president, is seen as close to China and has repeatedly lashed out at India over alleged attempts to undermine Maldivian sovereignty.

A major controversy erupted earlier this year after Maldivian officials made remarks about Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi that New Delhi saw as “derogatory.” Another official, who was later suspended, created fresh controversy over the weekend after using a symbol that resembled the Ashok Chakra – a symbol featured in the middle of the Indian tricolour – in a (since-deleted) social media post criticising political opposition.

The official apologized on Monday, after facing backlash. Meanwhile, the Indian foreign minister has asserted the need to “welcome competition” and to have “more confidence” in the face of growing Chinese influence in the Southeast Asian region. At the same time, India has been actively expanding its military presence in the region – last month, it commissioned a new naval base in the Lakshadweep Islands near Maldives.

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