Maldives President Faces Opposition Criticism Amidst Anti-India Stance

”New Delhi: Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu, under scrutiny for his anti-India stance, is scheduled to address the parliament in today’s inaugural session of the year. According to the Mihaaru newspaper, the two major opposition parties, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and The Democrats, have chosen to abstain from the presidential statement.
While MDP has not disclosed the reasons for skipping the presidential address, The Democrats attribute their decision to the re-appointment of three ministers previously rejected by the parliament.

As per the Maldives Constitution, the President is obligated to address the parliament during the first session annually, providing an overview of the nation’s state and recommendations for addressing prevailing challenges. The timing of President Muizzu’s address coincides with heightened criticism for his anti-India stance, evident in his campaign focus on reducing Indian influence in Maldivian affairs. Shortly after assuming office, he visited China and met with President Xi Jinping.

A significant source of tension between India and the Maldives, longstanding allies, has been the presence of around 80 Indian soldiers in the island nation. According to a Reuters report, the Maldives foreign ministry has announced India’s commitment to withdraw its troops by May. The initial batch of Indian troops is set to depart by March 10, with the remainder leaving by May 10, based on an agreement reached during a meeting in New Delhi.

The External Affairs Ministry has stated that the two countries have reached an agreement on practical solutions to facilitate the continued operation of Indian aviation platforms providing humanitarian services to the Maldives, as reported by Reuters.

President Muizzu’s anti-India stance has triggered criticism domestically. The MDP and The Democrats recently issued a joint statement characterizing the shift in the island nation’s foreign policy as “extremely detrimental.” The statement emphasized that alienating any development partner, particularly the country’s longstanding ally, would have severe repercussions on the long-term development of the nation. It also stressed the importance of stability and security in the Indian Ocean for the stability and security of the Maldives.

In response, Gasuim Ibrahim, leader of the Jumhoori Party, has called for President Muizzu to formally apologize to India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and pursue “diplomatic reconciliation” to mend ties. Mr. Ibrahim’s remarks referred to President Muizzu’s earlier statement after returning from China, where he asserted, “We may be small, but this doesn’t give them the license to bully us,” without explicitly naming any country.

When questioned about the strained ties, External Affairs Minister Dr. S Jaishankar acknowledged the interdependence of neighbors, stating, “History and geography are very powerful forces. There is no escape from that.”