Maldives to abide by ‘India First’ policy as China and Islamism come knocking

Maldives, India, China, foreign policy, Dr. Mohamed Asim, Mohamed Nasheed ,Maumoon Abdul Gayoom

Dr. Mohamed Asim, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Special Envoy of the President of Maldives called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday afternoon.

They discussed the ties between India and Maldives as close neighbours bound by shared history, culture and maritime interests in the Indian Ocean. Special Envoy Asim reiterated the commitment of Maldives to maintain close relations with India under Maldives’ “India First” policy.

Prime Minister affirmed that India would always be a reliable and close neighbour of Maldives supporting it in its progress and security.

Special Envoy Asim also reiterated President Yameen’s invitation to Prime Minister to visit Maldives. Prime Minister conveyed his gratitude for the invitation and agreed to the visit at a suitable time.

Special Envoy conveyed the greetings of President Abdulla Yameen to Prime Minister, which was warmly reciprocated by Prime Minister.

This visit is significant as earlier the current Maldivian government is known for its soft stance on growing Islamism in the country and also for it China tilt. Earlier, a newspaper close to the Yameen regime named Vaguthu, published an article which was rabidly anti-India.

The article suggested that how India is treating its own Muslims is evidence that it is no longer a compassionate nation. Interestingly, Maldives is very close to Pakistan these days while Indian Prime Minister Modi has not visited the country till now.

It also said that the Indian policy has shifted since the extremist Hindu Narendra Modi has been in power. He is especially anti-Muslim. The article said that the progress in the Maldives means we no longer have to beg Indians and that since the Maldives is an Islamic country – it is Indian policy to make things difficult for Muslims.

The newspaper was slammed by a strong opposition which called it a ‘mouthpiece of President Yameen whose editorials are routinely approved by the President’s Office prior to publication.’

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The opposition took note of the rabid hate for India which the article was espousing when it called India “the biggest enemy of the Maldives” and called Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi “an extremist Hindu” who is “anti-Muslim.” In a detailed statement on 20th December 2017, the opposition slammed this article but the intention of Maldivian regime is now clear with regards to India.

The editorial went on to accuse India of plotting a military overthrow of the Yameen regime, providing weapons to terrorists in Sri Lanka, and breaking the international law through its actions in Kashmir.

The editorial also suggested the Maldives should ditch India and find a “new best friend” in China.

Two former Maldives presidents, who belong to the joint opposition, labeled the article an outrageous slur on India and the Indian Prime Minister.

Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom said on Twitter: “I condemn the article in Vaguthu that brands India as an enemy of Maldives. Outrageous! No Maldivian in his right mind would subscribe to such views. India has been and remains a very close and trusted friend of Maldives.”

Former President Mohamed Nasheed added: “Strongly condemn anti-India diatribe in regime mouthpiece Vaguthu. Prez YAG’s reckless foreign policy is destroying our relationship with India. Maldives must be sensitive to India’s security and safety.”

Since assuming office in 2013, President Yameen has increasingly shunned India and embraced Beijing, unveiling a raft of infrastructure projects paid for through expensive Chinese loans.