India should not lose influence over the Maldives

The ice-breaking visit of Maldivian Foreign Minister Moosa Zameer to India provides an opportunity to reset bilateral ties that suffered a blow recently. In fact, the visiting leader set the right tone when he asserted that the two countries must put the bitterness of the recent past firmly behind them and look ahead to strengthen the traditional relations. He went on to promise that the island country is taking appropriate action to ensure that ‘derogatory remarks’ made against India in the past are not repeated. The sentiments expressed by him during his meeting with his Indian counterpart S Jaishankar must be welcomed. India’s relations with the Maldives rest on the twin important pillars of mutual interests and reciprocal sensitivity.

An unsavoury saga created tensions in the bilateral relations a couple of months ago when three Maldivian ministers – Mariyam Shiuna, Malsha Sharif and Hassan Zihan – made ‘derogatory remarks’, targetting Prime Minister Narendra Modi, following his visit to Lakshadweep to promote domestic tourism. They were subsequently suspended. The ties were further strained after President Mohamed Muizzu set a 10 May deadline for Indian military personnel to leave the archipelago nation. Tourism, the backbone of the Maldivian economy, took a severe beating as the anti-India remarks, amplified by social media posts, triggered angry reactions from India, with many Indians cancelling their plans to visit the popular tourist destination. China has been trying to enter the scene and take the Maldives away from India. This attempt to encircle India is a national security threat. India should continue to keep healthy relations with Maldives and should not lose influence over the island nation. The Chinese should not be allowed to be an important player in the Maldives.