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Muizzu’s win in Maldives parliamentary polls bolsters anti-India forces

Muizzu's People's National Congress (PNC) won 71 out of 93 seats, indicating the archipelago country's apparent tilt towards China

Muizzu’s win in Maldives parliamentary polls bolsters anti-India forces
[Source photo: X]

Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu’s landslide victory in last week’s parliamentary election will strengthen anti-India forces in the country, but experts warn that India’s hard stance may further push Male away.

Beating his predecessor, Mohamed Solih, Muizzu’s People’s National Congress (PNC) won 71 out of 93 seats in the parliament, indicating the archipelago country’s apparent tilt towards China and its intention of delinking with its traditional partner and maritime neighbor, India. 

Solih’s Maldives Democratic Party (MDP), known for its pro-India stand, managed to win only a dozen seats compared to the 65 seats it had won in 2019. 

During his presidential campaign in 2023, Muizzu had pledged ‘an India Out’ policy, and after getting elected, he kept his election promise by asking Indian military personnel to leave Maldives. Global geopolitical experts dubbed this move an indication of his government’s growing proximity to China.

Experts believe that Male needs to consciously make a cost-benefit balance ratio rather than be emotional about its ‘India out‘ campaign. Meanwhile, New Delhi should avoid punitive action against its maritime neighbor, which may drive it further closer to China. 

Speaking to Press Insider, former Indian diplomat Anil Trigunayat said that India has to complement the process of democracy and respect people’s mandate.

“President Muizzu’s party has got a major victory which will strengthen his hands to follow policies that they consider beneficial to their interests. No doubt some of their public pronouncements and even actions have been anti-India, which I think was driven by domestic politics and Chinese influence,” Trigunayat, who had been Indian ambassador to Jordan, Libya, and Malta, said. 

Speaking on the election results, Srikanth Kondapalli, dean of the School of International Studies and a professor of China Studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, warned that Muizzu’s ‘India out‘ strategy may prove costly for him considering China’s debt trap policy. He said that Male needs to consciously make a cost-benefit balance ratio rather than be emotional about its anti-India campaign.

He recounted that in 2014, when a water treatment plant in Male was destroyed in a fire, India was the first country to reach out with help. India, barely 800 km away from the island nation, sent fresh water before helping it restore the supply. 

Indian Air Force transport aircraft and naval vessels then carried a large consignment of water for the immediate requirement of 100,000 people in Male. China, on the other hand, took a whole week to reach Maldives because of the distance between the two countries. 

Kondapalli also criticized India’s diplomatic mission in Male for failing to gauge the anti-India public sentiment that was evident through Muizzu’s ‘India Out’ campaign. “We (Indian High Commission in Male) should have been more alert and would have attempted to neutralize (India Out’) campaign by approaching Muizzu or his pro-India colleagues in the PNC, other members of chambers of commerce, or members of the Maldivian tourism industry.” 

He warned that if this sentiment continues to hold and if India chooses to respond by taking an anti-Maldivian stand, it will cost New Delhi in the long run, considering the Maldivian government is offering several concessions to China.

Kondapalli said that India will also lose in terms of its foreign policy posturing if its close neighbor becomes a pro-China country. As a great power, India needs to be moderate towards the Maldives in one way or the other and blunt its India out campaign, he said.  

Warning against China’s debt-trap policy, Kondapalli said India will have to come to the Maldives aid if China repeats what it did in Sri Lanka. Noting that India has a record of stepping up for its neighbors, Kondapalli added that India provided economic aid worth almost $4 billion to Sri Lanka in May 2023, including lines of credit to purchase food, fuel, and medicines, currency support, and by offering deferment of payment of loans.

“China has left many participating countries in its Belt and Road initiative debt-ridden by first offering them concessions like loan aid for creating infrastructure,” he added. 

Knowing this fully well, India needs to take a moderate approach towards the Maldives as the country is geographically close to us, whatever happens, there will be repercussions for India, Kondapalli added, “India should have a long-term policy to see that ‘India Out’ campaign is blunted and ‘China In’ campaign is cautioned.”

Stating that China’s main objective is to stop the US influence in the Indo-Pacific region, Kondapalli said that knowing this, the US will put pressure on the Muizzu government against offering concessions to China, a saving grace for India.

He added that China might try to meddle in Maldives’ iHavan project, ideally located on the East-West route of the Indian Ocean, which will be a hub having facilities like warehouses, packaging, processing, manufacturing, international cruise facilities, airport development, iHavan is estimated to provide a passage for over $1 trillion worth of goods and services that will pass through the located at the northern-most atoll of the Maldives, Ihavandhippolhu. 

Despite the Maldives’ anti-India posturing, India continued to assist the Maldives in times of crisis through its non-reciprocal neighborhood first policy.

India’s commitment to the welfare and needs of the people of Maldives remains steady and consistent, as was evident from the renewal of arrangements for essential supplies,” Trigunayat said. 

He hoped that post-elections, the Maldivian government would make a realistic assessment to benefit their country and people. 


Kaumudi Kashikar-Gurjar is an Associate Editor at Press Insider. Based in Pune, Kaumudi is a resourceful writer and a trained multimedia journalist who covers business and economy. Formerly the bureau chief at Sakal Times and Mid Day, Kaumudi has written extensively on politics and governance over her career spanning 20 years for publications including the Pune Mirror. More

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