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'At end of day, neighbours need each others': Jaishankar on 'India Out' campaign in Maldives

Maldives' pro-China President Mohamed Muizzu won the November elections riding on an 'India Out' campaign and has since asked New Delhi to withdraw its military personnel and two helicopters. India has previously assisted Maldives greatly in disaster management and maritime security.

Aveek Banerjee Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Mumbai Published on: January 30, 2024 14:26 IST
S Jaishankar, India Maldives relations, China
Image Source : PTI (FILE) External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar

Mumbai: Amid the strained ties between New Delhi and Male due to the 'India Out' campaign in the Maldives, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Tuesday said that at the end of the day, neighbours need each other. He further contextualised India-Maldives relations by asserting that history and geography are powerful forces that cannot be escaped from.

Notably, Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu, who won the election in November by riding on the 'India Out' campaign, began pivoting towards China by distancing from New Delhi. He asked India to withdraw its nearly 80 military personnel stationed in the island country and vowed to stop the emergency helicopter services as facilitated by India, fixing March 2024 as the deadline.

"At the end of the day, neighbours need each other... History and geography are very powerful forces. There is no escape from that," Jaishankar said while addressing an event at the Indian Institute of Management in Mumbai. His statement came after a diplomatic row erupted between India and the Maldives following derogatory remarks used by deputy ministers against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Adding fuel to the fire, the Maldives allowed the docking of a Chinese ship, equipped to carry research and surveys, a break from tradition as India was the country's first port of call in the past. The decision also seemingly ignored India's longstanding concerns over the military use of Chinese research ships.

Jaishankar on attacks in the Red Sea

Additionally, the external affairs minister weighed in on the repeated attacks on commercial vessels in the strategic Red Sea route amid tensions from the Israel-Hamas war and India's assistance to distressed vessels in times of crisis. "India's greater capability, our own interest and our reputation today warrant that we actually help out in difficult situations,” he said.

“We will not be considered a responsible country if bad things are happening around our neighbourhood and we say I have got nothing to do with this,” Jaishankar added. The minister's statement came after the Indian Navy's warship INS Sumitra successfully rescued fishing vessel Al Naeemi and 19 crew, all Pakistani nationals, from 11 Somali pirates, along the East Coast of Somalia and the Gulf of Aden on Monday. This came within 36 hours of rescuing another vessel with 17 Iranian crew.

INS Sumitra has been deployed for anti-piracy and maritime security operations in the east of Somalia and Gulf of Aden. The Indian Navy has deployed 10 of its ships in the region, Jaishankar said while responding to a question at the event.

We should not be scared of China: Jaishankar

Jaishankar further said that India should not be scared of China, instead, Indians should have more confidence to do better as part of the competitive politics. "I think that this idea that some neighbours are turning against us, it's a way of failing... I don't think we should be scared of China. I think we should say, ok, global politics is a competitive game, you do your best, I will do my best. China is a major economy, it will deploy resources, it will try and shape things in China's way," he added.

"Why should we expect otherwise? But the answer to that is not to complain that China is doing it. The answer is 'ok, you are doing it, let me do better than you'. Today, Nepal has discovered the export of electricity to India. It is an enormously rewarding form of transaction," he added.

Weighing on the Israel-Hamas war, the minister asserted that what happened on October 7 was terrorism but advocated for the two-state solution to the Palestinian issue. "As a country which has itself experienced so much terrorism, I think it's important that we recognise that and we express that solidarity as another victim of terrorism. Some just, fair and viable solution has to be found. It is certainly the view of India and a large number of countries that it can only be done through a 'two-state' solution. There has to be a Palestinian state side by side with the state of Israel," he said.

(with PTI inputs)

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