On Wednesday, the Maldives issued a statement, strongly rejecting attempts to spread false information that criticized the Maldives’ close ties with India
On Wednesday, the Maldives issued a statement, strongly rejecting attempts to spread false information that criticized the Maldives’ close ties with India. Calling India a “trusted ally and the closest partner”, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that allegations that the bilateral cooperation between the two countries undermined the archipelago’s national security are “baseless” and “unsubstantiated.”
Last week, thousands of messages with the hashtag #Indiaout flooded the social media platforms in the Maldives in what appears a well-coordinated and deliberate campaign with specific motives. The theme, presented through the messages, was to discredit both India and the Maldivian government led by President Ibrahim Mohammed Solih.
Similar campaigns were launched last year, accusing New Delhi of military presence--hinting at the presence of two-three helicopters of the Indian Navy--in the archipelago. However, the close cooperation between two countries and their security forces isn’t something new--or had started happening after the current government came to power in 2018. Neither has India done anything recently that could have hurt domestic sentiments there.
“The Government firmly believes that these views are not the sentiments of the general public, but rather that of a small group of individuals with the objective of tarnishing the country’s long-standing cordial ties with India,” the ministry statement said in the statement
“The cooperation and support provided by the Government of India, specifically on issues of maritime security, is aimed at strengthening the strategic partnership between the two countries and to ensure the safety and stability of the Indian Ocean region,” it said, adding the cooperation between two navies “directly benefited” people of the Maldives by enhancing its capacities.
However, the renewed malicious campaign raises some obvious questions: who is behind these protests; what are their motives; who are the players benefitting from discrediting both New Delhi and Male. The opposition grouping led by its jailed former president Abdullah Yameen?
Yameen, who was the country’s president from 2013-2018, is currently locked in prison in Male after being convicted in the MMPRC scandal, a multi-million dollar money laundering case involving swindling of state funds to private accounts.
By the end of his tenure, Yameen had soured ties with New Delhi, crossing many limits that are generally considered as red lines for New Delhi (for any ally). However, in the 2018 elections, he lost. The new government led by Solih and former president Mohammed Nasheed again repaired ties with India, reasserted the country’s “India-First Policy” and also diversified security relations with other western countries.
Politically isolated with their leader in jail, Yameen’s party leaders had repeatedly sought assistance from New Delhi and Colombo in securing the release of Yameen--both denied interfering in the matter which is still sub-judice in the Maldivian courts. In November last year, when India Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla visited the Maldives, leaders from the PPM, Yameen’s party, raised a similar request.
It is not just a coincidence that the recent orchestrated campaign was launched just days before India’s newly-appointed High Commissioner to Male, Munu Mahawar, was to present his credentials to President Solih.
On Wednesday, when Ambassador Mahawar presented his credentials, Solih and Mahawar both expressed “their desire for further cooperation and assistance in all efforts towards the mutual benefit of both nations.”
Last year also, both Nasheed and Foreign Minister Abdullah Shahid openly blamed the opposition parties behind the anti-Indian protests, accusing them of jeopardizing the country’s security ties with its closest ally.