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The Maldives: Anti-Indian President Muizzu faces mounting domestic protests

The Maldives: Anti-Indian President Muizzu faces mounting domestic protests

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Virendra Pandit

 

New Delhi: Amid mounting anti-government protests, speculation is rife in the Maldives if its pro-Chinese President Mohamed Muizzu will be able to complete his first year in office in November 2024.

His People’s National Congress had won the 2023 elections banking on an anti-India narrative, a departure from his predecessors who pursued a pro-India policy.

Fearing that the Maldives might turn into another Sri Lanka and watching the island nation’s businesses and tourism sector escalate their anti-Muizzu protests, the two main Opposition parties have also jumped into the fray. The two parties, which together have 55 seats in the 87-member parliament, are likely to form a coalition against Muizzu and topple his government.

His government’s “anti-India stance” may be detrimental to the island nation’s development, these parties warned, two days after the Muizzu administration announced a Chinese ship will be docking at their port, the media reported on Thursday.

These warnings came amid strained Maldivian ties with India and the island nation’s new-found affinity towards China, a potentially significant geopolitical and military shift in the Indian Ocean Region.

“Both these Opposition parties, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and The Democrats, believe alienating any development partner, and especially the country’s most long-standing ally (India) will be extremely detrimental to the long-term development of the country,” they said.

Their assessment of “the direction in foreign policy” stated the Maldivian government must work with all development partners as it has traditionally done.

“Stability and security in the Indian Ocean is vital to the stability and security of the Maldives,” said the two parties, which jointly hold 55 seats in the 87-member house.

The remarks were made at a joint news conference addressed by MDP’s chairperson Fayyaz Ismail, Deputy Speaker of the Parliament Ahmed Saleem, Democrats chief MP Hassan Latheef, and the Parliamentary Group Leader Ali Azim.

The Maldives recently upgraded its ties with China in the wake of a diplomatic row over three Maldivian junior ministers’ derogatory comments against Prime Minister Narendra Modi after he visited India’s Lakshadweep islands.

The island country has also set a March 5 deadline for India to withdraw its troops. This deadline came after President Muizzu’s first state visit to China this month. This was also his first port of call after assuming office, another shift from his predecessors who traditionally have been making India their first port of call.

Earlier this week, the Maldives announced it has allowed a Chinese survey ship to dock at one of its ports for replenishment, but it will not conduct any “research” in the Maldivian waters.

“The Maldives has always been a welcoming destination for vessels of friendly countries, and continues to host both civilian and military vessels making port calls for peaceful purposes,” it said, a remark being seen as further evidence of Male’s drift away from New Delhi and towards Beijing.

 

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