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India's boycott impacted country, people of Maldives are sorry: Ex-President Mohamed Nasheed

India-Maldives ties have nosedived after pro-China President Mohamed Muizzu came to power and a diplomatic row involving derogatory language against PM Modi. Nasheed said India's boycott call hurt the tourism sector of the Maldives and praised New Delhi's responsible approach towards challenges.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee New Delhi Published on: March 09, 2024 10:44 IST
Maldives, india, Mohamed Muizzu, diplomatic row
Image Source : ANI Maldives former President Mohamed Nasheed.

New Delhi: Former Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed raised several concerns over India's boycott call on the Maldives over a diplomatic row between the two countries, saying it has impacted the island country's tourism sector and conveyed apologies on behalf of the people of Maldives. The row ensued after Maldivian ministers used derogatory language against Prime Minister Narendra Modi after his visit to Lakshadweep.

Relations between India and the Maldives have nosedived after current President Mohamed Muizzu, widely seen as a pro-China leader, came to power and issued a series of directives aimed at distancing from India, such as demanding the withdrawal of Indian military personnel from the island country and refusing to restart a hydrographic survey.

Speaking to news agency ANI on India's boycott call of Maldives, Nasheed said, "It has impacted the Maldives a lot, and I am actually here in India. I'm very worried about this. I want to say the people of the Maldives are sorry, we are sorry that this has happened. We want Indian people to come on their holidays to the Maldives, and there will not be any change in our hospitality".

Nasheed praises India, says they didn't 'twist arms'

However, the former President praised the quick action by Muizzu to remove the ministers who are directly responsible for the row and India's boycott, saying these matters must be discussed so both countries change their course and go back to their usual relationship. India has traditionally been a staunch ally of Maldives, carrying out hundreds of medical evacuations and humanitarian missions.

Nasheed also complimented India's responsible approach while facing challenges in the past, even during Muizzu's anti-India stance. "When the president of the Maldives wanted Indian military personnel to leave, you know what India did? They did not twist their arms. They did not display muscle, but just simply told the government of Maldives, okay, let's have a discussion on that," he said.

He also lamented Muizzu's recent discussions to take operational authority over the Dornier flight and helicopters provided by India to the island country and urged him to cease such talks. "I would call him to please stop these discussions on the Dornier flight and the helicopters. They were brought to the Maldives for medical evacuation, and there is a need for medical evacuation. Our islands are far-flung, and we don't have developed hospitals on every island. So, there is very often a need to bring a patient to Male, and to do that quickly would be by air, so we need that".

Nasheed also underlined the enduring friendship between India and the Maldives, rooted in mutual assistance and cooperation during times of need. Referring to a recent defence pact between the Maldives and China, Nasheed said Muizzu wanted to buy some equipment, mainly rubber bullets and tear gas. "It is very unfortunate that the government thought that there was a need for more tear gas and more rubber bullets. Governance is not through the barrel of the gun," he added.

Muizzu's latest actions on India

Most recently, the Maldivian defence force said it will have operational authority over the helicopter given by India to the island nation and the civilian crew that will pilot it, while discussions for the withdrawal of Indian troops in the Maldives are underway. This came after India said its first civilian team of technical experts had reached the Maldives to replace the military personnel operating an advanced light helicopter in the island nation.

Following a second meeting of the high-level core group that was set up to address the issue of withdrawal of the Indian military personnel, the Maldivian foreign ministry had said India will replace all its military personnel in two phases by May 10. However, Muizzu has insisted that no Indian military personnel will be present inside the country following May 10-- be it in "uniform" or "civilian clothing".

Notably, the removal of Indian troops in the Maldives was part of an election campaign for Muizzu's party. There are around 88 Indian troops, along with Dornier 228 maritime patrol aircraft and two HAL Dhruv helicopters, stationed in the Maldives. “These people [Indian military] are not departing and are returning after changing their uniforms into civilian clothing. We must not indulge such thoughts that instil doubts in our hearts and spread lies," Muizzu added.

The Indian aviation platforms have provided humanitarian and medical evacuation services to the Maldivians for the last few years. Muizzu defeated India-friendly incumbent Ibrahim Mohamed Solih in the presidential runoff held in September last year.

Muizzu also announced that he will not renew an agreement with New Delhi to conduct hydrographic surveys and plans to acquire the facilities and machines required to do the exercise by itself. The development comes days after China signed a defence cooperation agreement with the Maldives to provide free military assistance to foster "stronger" bilateral ties.

(with inputs from agencies)

ALSO READ | Maldives military to have operational control of helicopter and civilian crew from India: Male


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