Opposition in Maldives criticizes Muizzu's 'anti-India' shift, flags concerns for long-term development

Maldives row: The opposition parties, in a joint statement, expressed concerns over the potential ramifications of this shift in foreign policy, labelling it as 'extremely detrimental' to the long-term development of the Maldives.

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Courtesy: ANI (File)

Maldives row: Amid escalating tensions between the Maldives and India, the Opposition parties in the island nation, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and The Democrats, have voiced strong reservations against President Mohammad Muizzu's perceived 'anti-India' pivot. The opposition parties, in a joint statement, expressed concerns over the potential ramifications of this shift in foreign policy, labelling it as 'extremely detrimental' to the long-term development of the Maldives.

Opposition's Stand

The joint press statement from MDP and The Democrats reiterated their belief that distancing the Maldives from any development partner, especially its longstanding ally India, could have severe consequences for the country's stability and progress. Emphasizing the crucial role of stability and security in the Indian Ocean, the Opposition called for consecutive governments to maintain the ability to collaborate with all development partners for the benefit of the Maldivian people.

China's Growing Presence

Against the backdrop of strained relations, a recent Reuters report highlighted a Chinese research vessel heading to the Maldives, raising eyebrows in New Delhi. The timing of this development coincided with President Muizzu's state visit to China, aimed at strengthening ties. The Maldives Ministry of Foreign Affairs clarified that the country welcomes vessels from 'friendly nations,' both civilian and military, for peaceful purposes. However, this has triggered concerns in India, given previous instances of such vessels near its shores being viewed problematically.

Indian Troop Withdrawal and Diplomatic Sparring

On January 14, India and the Maldives agreed to expedite the withdrawal of Indian military personnel from the island nation, aligning with President Muizzu's election promise. Approximately 70 Indian troops, along with maritime patrol aircraft and helicopters, are stationed in the Maldives. The request for withdrawal, coupled with disparaging remarks by Maldivian officials about Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Lakshadweep visit, led to heightened diplomatic tensions.

Concerns Echoed by Opposition

The joint statement by MDP and The Democrats resonates with concerns over the potential consequences of the Maldives distancing itself from historical collaboration with India. The Opposition parties stressed the need for stability and progress, cautioning against jeopardizing the country's long-term development.

Government's Response and Distancing from Remarks

While the Maldives government officially requested India to withdraw its military personnel, it distanced itself from unsavoury comments made by cabinet members and officials against Prime Minister Modi. Maldivian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Moosa Zameer, emphasized that such remarks were "unacceptable" and did not reflect the official government position.

As geopolitical dynamics in the Indian Ocean region continue to evolve, the Maldives finds itself at the center of a diplomatic storm. The Opposition's concerns underscore the delicate balance the nation must maintain in its foreign relations to ensure sustained stability and development. The unfolding events will undoubtedly shape the future trajectory of Maldives' ties with both India and China.