In the Maldives, there is much noise about the ‘India Out’ campaign. Social media in the Maldives is replete with posts with the slogan of “India Out”. This is peculiar because India has been one of the closest allies the Maldives has from around the world. India has been the one that has countered Chinese interests in the Maldives while extending all possible help to the island nation. Last year, India helped relieve some debt stress of Maldives, by granting aid to the tune of $250 million. While a pro-India Ibrahim Mohamed Solih regime is in power in the Maldives, the big Chinese debt in the island country has remained a major concern.
The archipelago nation owes around $1.4 billion in debt to China. The sum is huge for a small country like Maldives having a GDP of $5.7 billion. And then, many analysts also believe that the $1.4 billion figure might be a misrepresentation. Also, in 2020, India had announced that it would provide half a billion-dollar funding to the island nation for several infrastructure projects that will change the face of the archipelago. The 500-million-dollar financial package consists of a grant of 100 million dollars and a new Line of Credit (LOC) of $400 million. In exchange, India wants the Maldives to stay away from China.
‘India Out’ Campaign Driven by China and Pakistan
China has suffered some severe setbacks due to India’s proactiveness in the Maldives. China was looking to establish its hegemony over the Indian Ocean Region, and the same is impossible without turning the Maldives into a client state. So, with the help of Pakistan, China is using Islamists in the Maldives to create a sense of panic among ordinary Maldivians.
According to Ahmed Azaan, co-founder of Maldivian online news outlet Dhiyares, Maldives “should be able to forge ties with India without undermining our sovereignty.” In several other tweets, Azaan expresses displeasure at India’s military presence in the Maldives and equates it to a loss of the Maldives’ sovereignty. According to The Diplomat, anti-India sentiment in the Maldives can be traced back to when Abdulla Yameen of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) became president in 2013. Interestingly, India neither has a military base nor a significant number of troops stationed in the Maldives.
Things have improved manifold since Ibrahim Solih took over. However, China and Pakistan are making a renewed push to turn Male against New Delhi.
Ibrahim Solih’s Government Blasts Anti-India Activists and Groups
The opposition in the Maldives is sitting squarely in the lap of China and Pakistan. Islamabad yearns to replace India as Maldives’ most trusted ally, and the only reason for it to cook such fantasies is that both the countries happen to have the same state religion – Islam. The government of Maldives, however, has lambasted the opposition and media in the country for trying to create tensions between Male and New Delhi.
The ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) condemned Ahmed Azaan and his news outlet for engaging in a “continuous barrage of anti-India vitriol” and “whipping up hatred against the Maldives’ closest ally.” It also accused Azaan’s groups of having ties with the opposition, which in turn has ties to Pakistan and China.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, Maldives said, “India has always been the Maldives’ closest ally and trusted neighbour, extending constant and consistent support to the people of Maldives on all fronts.” It wholeheartedly rejected attempts to spread “false information” through social media using what it called the “so-called India Out” slogan and said India will always remain a “true” and a “trusted friend” of the Maldivian people.
China Rattled by India’s Tremendous Ties with the Maldives
In the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), Beijing is trying to encircle India with a ring of debt trapped nations as a part of its “string of pearls” strategy. However, India has continuously managed to drill huge holes into China’s interests, most recently, with a massive project in the Maldives. In August, TFI global had reported how India and Maldives are reportedly set to sign a contract on the mega Greater Male Connectivity project (GMCP). This is going to be the largest infrastructure project in the archipelago nation and is therefore going to beat China when it comes to enhancing its presence in the Maldives.
Witnessing India and Maldives’ growing bonhomie, China is rattled. Therefore, along with Pakistan and Islamists in the Maldives, it is fuelling an unsuccessful anti-India campaign.