The Maldives government’s “anti-India stance” may turn out detrimental to the island nation’s development, the two main opposition parties have warned, two days after the administration announced a Chinese ship will be docking at their port.
The words of caution by the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and the Democrats comes amid strained ties between the two neighbours and the Maldives’ affinity towards China, a potentially significant geopolitical and military shift in the Indian Ocean Region.
President Mohamed Muizzu won the 2023 elections banking on an anti-India narrative, a departure from his predecessors who pursued a pro-India policy.
“Both, the MDP and The Democrats believe alienating any development partner, and especially the country’s most long-standing ally will be extremely detrimental to the long-term development of the country,” the two opposition parties said, calling India the “most long-standing ally”.
Their assessment on “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 opposition 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.
Maldives recently upgraded its ties with China after a diplomatic row over Maldivian ministers’ derogatory comments against Prime Minister Narendra Modi post his visit to India’s Lakshadweep islands.
The country has also set a March 5 deadline for India to withdraw its troops – a deadline that follows President Muizzu’s first state visit to China after being elected. 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, 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 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,” Maldives said, a remark being seen as a further evidence of Male’s pivot away from New Delhi and towards Beijing.