Maldives in damage control mode; President Muizzi’s proposed visit to India

New Delhi: Maldives faced severe criticism after one of its ministers made derogatory remarks about Prime Minister Narendra Modi after pictures of him were posted from Lakshadweep. Social media campaigns in support of the Prime Minister gained momentum, resulting in thousands of flight tickets and hotel bookings being canceled by Indians in the island country.

After facing strong criticism for the unruly behavior of its ministers and recognizing the potential threat to its tourism industry, the Maldives attempted damage control by suspending the ministers for their offensive comments. In an effort to improve India-Maldives relations, the Government of Male has now proposed the visit of its President Mohammed Muizzu to India later this month.

President Muizu is currently on a week-long visit to China and exploring various aspects of cooperation. He visited the Xiamen Free Trade Zone in Fujian province and met senior officials of China Communications Construction Co., Ltd. Meetings with prominent Chinese political figures, including Zhou Zui and Zhao Long, were also on the agenda. Additionally, President Muizu is scheduled to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping later during his visit.

However, Muizzu’s presidency began with an anti-India stance, as he vowed in his election speeches to send back Indian troops and let the hydrographic agreement with India expire. Additionally, derogatory comments by Maldivian ministers about Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi strained bilateral relations. In response, the Maldivian government acted quickly, suspending the ministers involved and distancing itself from the controversial comments.

Historically, India and Maldives had positive bilateral relations before the Muizzu government took power. India has been a steadfast supporter, offering assistance during critical moments such as the 1988 coup attempt and the 2004 tsunami. India’s prompt response to Mali’s water crisis in December 2014 and ongoing support during the COVID-19 pandemic underlined the strong ties. Additionally, India plays an important role in the training of the Maldives National Defense Force, thereby contributing to the overall security cooperation between the two countries.