Why Is The New Maldives' President So Hell Bent On 'India Out'?

Swarajya Staff

Dec 15, 2023, 05:42 PM | Updated 05:42 PM IST

Maldives' new President Mohamed Muizzu. (Image via X)
Maldives' new President Mohamed Muizzu. (Image via X)

In yet another step against undermining the relationship with India, the newly-elected Maldivian president Mohamed Muizzu's administration has now decided to terminate the 2019 hydrographic survey agreement.

On Thursday (14 December), the Maldives government announced that they will terminate the India-Maldives hydrographic survey agreement signed in 2019.

What Is The Agreement?

The agreement, signed in 2019 with the erstwhile President Ibrahim Solih-led government, stipulated that both countries would jointly chart waters in the areas surrounding Maldivian territory and conduct surveys.

In fact, in 2022, utilising the agreement, INS Sutlej, an Indian Navy's hydrographic survey vessel, took part in the joint survey with the Maldivian government.

Why Did The Maldivian Government Decide To Cancel The Agreement?

The reason the Maldivian government gave for terminating the agreement was the sensitive nature of the information, as hydrographic surveys and charts can be used to chart possible entry and exit points for submarines in the area.

They cited national security concerns due to the joint surveys as the reason for revocation. The exact reason, however, could not be determined.

Current President's Anti-India, And Pro-China Tilt

The current President Mohamed Muizzu belongs to the People's National Congress, which was founded by another pro-China President, Abdullah Yameen.

He was vehemently anti-India and has tried to cut ties with India while getting as close to China and Pakistan, as much as possible.

The current President Mohamed Muizzu, just like Abdullah Yameen, is an ardent supporter of Yameen's 'India Out' campaign — a campaign that has found resonance with Maldivian voters.

The campaign attempts to portray India as a foreign force trying to undermine Maldives' national security, and interfering with its internal affairs.

Current Anti-India Steps In Maldives Raising Eyebrows

Just a day after taking charge as the President, Muizzu asked to withdraw 77 Indian troops that are stationed in the Maldives to operate helicopters and surveillance aircrafts that India has gifted to the Maldives.

The strain in the ties is also visible, as India sent Kiren Rijiju, a junior minister (Cabinet Minister of Earth and Sciences), to Muizzu's oath-taking ceremony, instead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

At this ceremony, Muizzu formally asked Rijiju to withdraw Indian troops from the Maldives.

Muizzu also chose Turkey for his first foreign visit, instead of India.

The Muizzu administration also skipped the sixth meeting of the Colombo Security Conclave, of which the Maldives is a founding member, along with Sri Lanka.

Instead, Muizzu chose to send his Vice-President Hussain Mohamed Latheef to China for a meeting of the China-India Ocean Region Forum on Development Cooperation.

President Muizzu's tenure thus far has been marked by a distinct pro-China stance, a move that has raised concerns about the future of India-Maldives relations.

How close is Muizzu willing to take Maldives' relations with China, at the expense of India, remains to be seen.

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