The Maldives has been popular for its perfect beaches and luxury resorts and is regarded as a vacation destination for the rich and famous. However, in recent years, the strategic salience of the small island nation has affected global politics – particularly India and China. In the Maldives, there is much noise about the China-backed ‘India Out’ campaign.
While China wants to establish its hegemony over the Indian Ocean Region, the Indian Government has always considered the Maldives as one of India’s closest partners. However, the anti-India campaigns in the Maldives have become more politically active as the opposition leader and a strong face Yameen is sitting squarely in the lap of China and thus, is openly supporting the campaigns.
The government of Maldives, however, has yet again lambasted the opposition and media in the country for trying to create tensions between Male and New Delhi. In a bid to counter politically motivated, anti-India narratives in the island nation, the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) is drafting a new bill to criminalise the #IndiaOut slogan and those using such slogans will be punished.
Maldives Government’s pro-India instance
The tussle between India and China over the Maldives is quite evident. But, there is a huge difference in both the countries. While India has consistently helped the Maldives, the latter’s behaviour has changed depending on the Government in the island nation. Thus, Maldives cannot ignore India due to its geographical proximity and multidimensional relationship.
Ruling party MDP reportedly is drafting a new bill to outlaw the “India Out” campaign. Under this law, political movements adversely affecting foreign relations would be a criminal offence punishable with a jail sentence.
Earlier in November 2019, Maldives had 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 driven ‘India Out’ campaign
China has suffered some severe setbacks due to India’s proactiveness in the Maldives. China’s devilish dreams to establish its hegemony 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.
Read more: Pakistan and China try their best to trend #IndiaOut in Maldives. Maldives govt blasts it
China’s attempt to debt-trap the Maldives
As per the reports, the Chinese were looking forward to building a Joint Ocean Observation Station in Makunudhoo in the northwestern Maldives. However, this plan did not work. On multiple occasions, the speculations about a possible Chinese naval base in the Maldives have set the global political market abuzz.
Chinese authorities have time and again, urged Chinese citizens and businesses alike to visit and invest in the Maldives. The country has also run various projects such as the construction of roads and housing units, the expansion of the main international airport, the development of a power station, and the construction of a bridge to connect Malé with Hulhule, among other investments in tourism and agriculture.
The archipelago nation owes around $1.4 billion in debt to China, all thanks to the Yameen government. The Maldives has accumulated a debt of nearly $3.1 billion, according to former President Nasheed. 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.
India comes to the rescue
In 2020, 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.
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.
Given India and Maldives’ growing bonhomie, China is distressed. And thus, with the help of opposition and Islamists in the island nation, it is making attempts to launch a war against India. But, the ruling Government’s pro-India instance will not let them succeed in this diplomatic war.