Breaking his silence on the ongoing India-Maldives row, foreign minister S. Jaishankar said that “politics is politics,” and it “cannot be guaranteed that every country will support or agree with India every time.”
Jaishankar was responding to a question at an event in Nagpur on Saturday on how Indian interests could be furthered irrespective of changes in governments.
“But what we have been trying to do in the last 10 years, with a lot of success, is to build a very strong connect so that, though the politics may go up and down, the people of the country, the society, generally have good feelings towards India and understand the importance of having good relations with India,” Jaishankar said.
“Sometimes, things do not go in a good way, and then you have to reason with people to bring things back to where they should be,” he added.
Tensions between New Delhi and Male spiked following President Mohamed Muizzu’s ascent to power on the plank of shrinking India’s influence in the island.
Maldives sets 15 March deadline
Male has set a 15 March deadline for Indian troops to withdraw from that country, the Maldivian President’s office said on Sunday.
Abdulla Nazim Ibrahim, public secretary at the president’s office, said, “Indian military personnel cannot stay in the Maldives. This is the policy of President Mohamed Muizzu and that of this administration.”
The Indian ministry of external affairs, in a statement on Sunday, said both sides held talks on “finding mutually workable solution to enable continued operation of Indian aviation platforms that provide humanitarian and medvac services to the people of Maldives.”
The issue was discussed at the first high-level core group meeting between New Delhi-Male held at the Maldivian foreign ministry in Male, and was attended by Indian ambassador Munu Mahawar.
The core group was formed following a meeting between Muizzu and Modi on the sidelines of COP28 in Dubai last month.
There are currently 88 Indian military personnel in the Maldives, including those who operate two Dhruv helicopters and a Dornier aircraft supplied by India to extend help to people residing on distant islands of the archipelago needing medical assistance.
‘License to bully’
The timing of the Maldivian President’s statement drew the attention of global political analysts.
Muizzu, a pro-China leader, who returned from a five-day state visit to China on Saturday, said at a press conference without naming any country, “We may be small, but that doesn’t give you the license to bully us.”
The reaction comes after three junior ministers in Muizzu’s government had taken to social media to mock Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi after the latter’s visit to Lakshadweep this month.
The Maldivian government was quick to attempt damage control, suspending the ministers who put out offensive tweets.
Against the backdrop of this row, Indian tour operators have seen a 40% decline in bookings for Maldives, resulting in plummeting prices for holiday packages to the tourist destination from India.
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