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Too clever by half: A week on, China supports the Maldives and hits back at India!

Too clever by half: A week on, China supports the Maldives and hits back at India!

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Virendra Pandit

 

New Delhi: Being utterly predictable is the worst thing in geopolitics. That’s what ails China. Everybody knows how and when the Dragon would change color like a chameleon but China reassures itself nobody would notice!

So, it was unsurprising—both on January 2 and on January 9—when China alternated its praise and condemnation of its biggest Asian enemy, India, trying to run with the hare and hunt with the hound.

As India firmly put the Maldives in its place in a flat 48 hours, China took upon itself the responsibility of shielding the Indian Ocean island nation it is trying to convert as the next Sri Lanka.

The Dragon spewed venom against India when the myopic Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu was on his first state visit to Beijing after winning the November elections on his “India Out” policy.

On Tuesday, the Chinese Communist Party officially came to defend the Maldives where it is eyeing to set up a naval base.

The tabloid Global Times—notorious for yellow journalism, which suspiciously praised New Delhi only a week ago!—said India’s ‘misinterpretations’ of Muizzu’s China visit, “reflect the lack of confidence among certain Indian politicians.”

“New Delhi should stay more open-minded.”

“India’s long-standing hegemonic mentality in South Asia is the root cause of its strained relations with some regional countries, including the Maldives, and India should not shift the blame onto China by hyping the narrative of competition with China in the region as an excuse.”

President Muizzu arrived in Xiamen, China’s Fujian Province, on an invitation from President Xi Jinping.

An ‘expert’ told the tabloid that Muizzu is not choosing sides between China and India, and China does not require him to do so. Instead, he is putting the interests of his own country first.

“India is a significant country to the Maldives whether it is from the geographic or historical factor, and its current nervousness about President Muizzu’s visit to China unveils its lack of confidence,” Global Times said.

During President Muizzu’s visit, the two sides are expected to sign a slew of cooperation documents on infrastructure construction under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), economy, climate change, green economy, and tourism. They may also explore the potential of a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA).

Both India and China have invested heavily in upgrading the Maldives’ infrastructure and extending loans to its government. India has, in particular, come to the rescue of its island neighbor multiple times.

But the November 2023 elections changed that as the Muizzu government is seen as pro-Pakistan and pro-China.

This week, relations between the Maldives and India hit rock bottom after a Maldivian junior minister posted on the social media platform X about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s official visit to Lakshadweep, calling him a “clown” and a “puppet of Israel.”

Two more ministers and several anti-Indian officials also criticized India for no reason at all.

All hell then broke loose as several Indian celebrities criticized the Maldives and hundreds of tourists canceled their travel bookings, instead looking to Lakshadweep as an alternative destination.

As it realized the potential huge loss to its tourism sector—over two lakh Indians visit the island nation annually and contribute 11 percent of tourist traffic there—the Maldives ‘suspended’ the three ministers to cool down the controversy. But India is said to be insisting on the ouster of the ministers. It also summoned the Maldivian High Commissioner in New Delhi and said as much.

But the controversy has been a blessing in disguise for India.

Lakshadweep, an Indian archipelago of 36 islands some 700 km north of the Maldives, is set to emerge as the next tourist destination—at the expense of the arrogant Maldives.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who visited it recently, urged Indians to explore the Union territory and boost tourism.

Not only India but also Israel is set to invest heavily in Lakshadweep and Minicoy islands to promote tourism.

 

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