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Maldives Promises Strengthening Ties with India

Maldives Promises Strengthening Ties with India

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NEW DELHI, May 9: The Maldives foreign minister Moosa Zameer, currently on his first official visit to India, clarified on Thursday that the Mohamed Muizzu government did not support the derogatory comments made by some of the Maldivian ministers against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He added that the remarks did not represent the government’s stance and that “proper action” was taken to prevent repetition of such incidents in the future.

In an interview, Mr Zameer said, “I think if you have seen as you said, we have said that it’s not the stand of the government or we believe that it shouldn’t have been done. We are taking proper action to make sure that this doesn’t get repeated. There has been a misunderstanding, in social media. The governments of Maldives and India understand what has happened and we have passed that stage now.”

A conflict between India and Maldives started in January this year when three politicians made disrespectful remarks against PM Modi. Shortly after, Maldives Deputy Youth Ministers Mariyam Shiuna, Mahzoom Majid, and Malsha Shareef were suspended indefinitely. However, as per Maldives-based news organisation Adhadhu, the three continue to receive their salaries. Mr Zameer’s visit came amid tensions between India and the Maldives under President Muizzu’s government.

Speaking on his visit, Zameer said, “It was a good visit and it was a very warm welcome. My counterpart S Jaishnakar and myself had very fruitful discussions this morning. I really thank the government of India and MEA. Well, if you really go back to 1965, when Maldives became independent, India was one of the first countries to recognise Maldives. Throughout these years, we have seen very fruitful bilateral relations and we have seen people-to-people contact. I think we have a very symbiotic relationship that benefits both people. I think the future, if you have seen, we have been very clear that we want to have a very good relationship to deepen our relationship, move further and for the benefit of the people of Maldives and the people of India.”

Mr Zameer said that the Maldivian government was eager to mend ties with India. He said, “I think the Minister of Tourism has clearly said that he would like to welcome and I like myself to welcome all Indians who would like to travel to Maldives. But I think in the long term, once we move forward because if you’re seen in the last eight months, in Maldives and India, we are going through election cycles. So I think we will move beyond that phase pretty soon and we would like all Indian tourists to come back.”

The Maldives had lately been facing a boycott by Indian tourists who were the largest contributors to Maldives’ tourism industry. As per sun.mv, the first four months of 2024 saw a 42 per cent decline in tourists from India than last year. According to the Tourism Ministry’s data, as of May 4, the Maldives received 43,991 tourists from India this year. In comparison, last year during the same time, there were 73,785 Indian tourists visiting the Maldives.

Tracing the history, Mr Zameer said, “And if you look at the trajectory of what has happened. If you go back about 10 years ago, there continued to be a very important source market and then during COVID Indian travellers actually came into all this in high numbers. And then that trend continued … In the past couple of months and we have had about 16-17 per cent increase and then of course there has been a decrease in Indian markets but I’m confident that it will pick up in the near future,” he added.

Talking about the defence relationship between the two countries, Mr Zameer said, “I think Maldives-India defence relations go beyond military personnel. And now, those platforms which have been handled by the military personnel will be handled by civilians. We have had a joint exercise with the Maldivian military, Indian military and Sri Lanka I think Bangladesh is an observer and we will continue to have these exercises…Peace and security of the Indian Ocean is important for both Maldives as well as India. So we will work together to make the Indian Ocean a peaceful place.”

Muizzu’s party heavily campaigned on removing Indian troops from the country ahead of being elected to power and India on Thursday pulled out all its military personnel from the archipelago even before the May 10 deadline. There were about 70 Indian troops stationed in the Maldives manning the two maritime patrol aircraft and two helicopters gifted to Maldives by India.

(Manas Dasgupta)


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