January 19, 2024

MALDIVES: Newly Elected President Has Decided To Cut Ties With India 60 Friendship To Favor China. India Was First To Recognize Maldives After Its Independence From British Rule In 1965.

Firstpost published January 19, 2024: Jaishankar Meets Maldivian Foreign Minister Amid Raging Dispute. Vantage with Palki Sharma. India's foreign minister S Jaishankar met his Maldivian counterpart amid a raging diplomatic standoff between the two countries. Malรฉ claims the two sides discussed the demand to withdraw Indian soldiers from the island nation. What options does India have? Palki Sharma tells you.

The Hindu News, India local
written by Suhasini Haidar
Thursday January 18, 2024

Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson says discussions still going on, next round of India-Maldives high-level talks to be held soon; declines to comment on the March 15 deadline to withdraw troops; says India is committed to development projects in the islands.

India on Thursday said it continues to hope for a resolution of the tussle with the Maldives over stationing of Indian troops in the islands, despite the Maldivian government setting a deadline of March 15 for their removal. Answering a number of questions about the tensions between the two countries, that have visibly increased since the new President Mohamed Muizzu took power and made sending back Indian military personnel attached to Indian aircraft given to the Maldives for humanitarian and maintenance operations a priority, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson said India remains “committed” to its partnership with the Maldives. He said discussions between officials who were part of “High-Level Core Group” talks held in Male on January 14 would continue “soon” , when a Maldivian delegation travels to India.

“Both sides held discussions on finding mutually workable solutions to enable continued operation of Indian aviation platforms that provide humanitarian and medevac services to the Maldivian people,” said spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal, referring to a press release issued by the MEA on January 14. “The next visit is due to be held in India to take discussions forward,” Mr. Jaiswal added, but did not announce a date for the talks.

In a press conference after the core group talks in Male however, Principal Secretary to President Muizzu on Public Policy Abdullah Nazim Ibrahim, had told journalists that Indian military personnel will no longer be permitted to reside there, and all Indian troops, estimated to be about 88, have been asked to leave by March 15, 2024. After a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in early December on the sidelines of the CoP Climate Conference in Dubai, President Muizzu had also claimed that India had “agreed” to withdraw its troops.

However, when asked pointedly about the Maldives deadline, the MEA spokesperson declined to respond, repeating that the India-Maldives talks about enabling continued operation of the aircraft were an “ongoing discussion”. The spokesperson also declined to respond to Mr. Muizzu’s latest comments on his return from Beijing this week, believed to be aimed at India, where he said the Maldives “cannot be bullied” by bigger countries.

More is expected to be heard on Mr. Muizzu’s position during his address to the Parliament due to be held on February 5. The date for the removal of troops is significant, as the next Maldives Majlis or Parliamentary elections are due to be held on March 17, especially important for Mr. Muizzu after his ruling coalition lost the Male Mayoral election this week.

Some reports had also claimed that Mr. Muizzu, who has travelled to Turkey, UAE and China since he was sworn in, had originally requested a visit to New Delhi, which was not accepted by the Indian government. Mr. Muizzu is the first Maldivian President not to make his first visit abroad to India. Mr. Jaiswal did not deny the reports of the “rebuff” by India, saying only that “both India and Maldives remain engaged to facilitate high-level visits with a constructive agenda at mutually convenient dates and times”.

The tussle over the troops has also led to questions about the future of nearly 50 High Impact Community Development Projects (HICDPs), and major infrastructure projects including a 2021 agreement for a Coastguard Harbour project in Uthara Thila Failu that was signed by External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and then-Maldives Defence Minister Marya Didi, and are to be built by India.

“We remain committed to taking our development projects forward. We have been an important partner of the Maldives and we are committed to doing all that we can on development projects according to the Maldives’ priorities,” Mr. Jaiswal said, in response to questions about whether India was worried about taking them forward.
Reuters News
written by Joe Cash
Wednesday January 10, 2024

BEIJING - China and the Maldives upgraded their relationship on Wednesday during newly elected President Mohamed Muizzu's first state visit to Beijing, following a campaign in which he cast China's regional rival India as a threat to sovereignty.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, speaking at the Great Hall of the People, called Muizzu "an old friend" as the Asian giant set the stage for further investment in the Indian Ocean archipelago by agreeing to a "comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership".

"China and the Maldives' relations are facing a historic opportunity to carry forward the past and forge ahead into the future," Xi told Muizzu, Chinese state media reported.

Muizzu took office in November, after winning on his "India Out" campaign platform under which he called New Delhi's huge influence a threat to sovereignty. His government has since asked dozens of locally based Indian military personnel to leave while talking up opportunities for Chinese investors despite being heavily indebted to Beijing.

Relations between India and China nosedived after soldiers from both sides clashed in the western Himalayas in June 2020, resulting in the death of 20 Indian soldiers and four Chinese troops.

By upgrading ties with the Maldives, China is setting the stage for further investment in a region where India has already seen another neighbour, Sri Lanka, gravitate towards China.

"During the talks, President Dr Muizzu expressed gratitude for China's significant role in the Maldives' economic success... and infrastructure development," a statement from his presidential office read following the meeting, adding that "20 key agreements between the two countries" had been signed.

The Maldives owes China $1.37 billion, or around 20% of its public debt, according to World Bank data, making Beijing its biggest bilateral creditor ahead of Saudi Arabia and India, which it owes $124 million and $123 million, respectively.

Chinese firms have invested a further $1.37 billion in the Maldives since its decision to join the Belt and Road Initiative in 2014, data from the American Enterprise Institute think tank shows.

"China firmly supports the Maldives in safeguarding its national sovereignty, independence and national dignity," state media reported Xi as saying. Beijing would also be willing to "exchange experience of state governance" with Male, Xinhua said. Muizzu was given a tour of the Chinese Communist Party Museum in Beijing ahead of meeting with Xi, a video on X, formerly known as Twitter, from his presidential office account showed.

The World Bank in an October development report on the Maldives warned further cosying up to China could spell trouble as a "build-up of sovereign exposure" had taken place during the pandemic and there was a "lack of domestic investment opportunities". Xi said he backed increasing the number of direct flights between the two countries, in a potential boon for the Maldives' travel and tourism sector, which constituted 79% of economic growth in 2022, according to the Asian Development Bank.

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