They shook hands, then Muizzu came and sat quietly on the chair… Will India-Maldives relations improve?

Ananya Shroff
5 Min Read

New Delhi : Prime Minister Narendra Modi's historic swearing-in ceremony. After Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, he is the second Prime Minister in the history of India who is assuming power for the third consecutive time. The historic swearing-in ceremony outside the Rashtrapati Bhavan was held with simplicity. Like PM Modi's previous two swearing-in ceremonies, this time too, under the 'Neighbor First' policy, the heads of states of India's neighboring countries were invited. Except Pakistan, China and Afghanistan, the heads of states of all the neighboring countries were invited. Maldives President Mohammad Muizzu came to witness this historic moment. Given Muizzu's anti-India and pro-China image, it was possible that he would have sent a representative in his place. After all, China was not invited. But the good thing was that Muizzu showed the wisdom to honor the invitation of India, the world's largest democracy and a major power in Asia. He came to participate in the swearing-in ceremony. Reached his chair. There he shook hands with the guests around him and quietly sat on the chair. This is an opportunity for Muizzu, a staunch opponent of India, to take the initiative to reduce tensions in relations between the two countries.

Bilateral relations between India and Maldives have been quite strong. Since 1965, when British colonial rule ended on this island, India and Maldives have had strong relations. The geographical location of Maldives makes it strategically very important. This island country located in the Indian Ocean serves as the gateway to the Arabian Sea. India has been Maldives' partner in its joys and sorrows. Whenever this island country has faced any crisis, India has been the first to extend a helping hand. When there was an attempt of coup in Maldives in 1988, the Indian Army foiled it by running Operation Cactus. When the tsunami hit in December 2004, India's coasts were also affected, despite this, India ran 'Operation Sea Waves' for relief and rescue in Maldives within 24 hours. 10 years later, when Maldives' largest water treatment plant caught fire in December 2014, India continuously supplied drinking water to this island country until the plant was restarted. After launching 'Operation Neer', Indian ships reached Maldives with water within the first 12 hours. India also sent the necessary equipment to repair the water treatment plant. During the Corona period, India was the first to supply vaccines to Maldives, that too as a gift. Maldives has been dependent on India for its daily needs like medicines, grains, fruits, vegetables, spices. Tourism is the backbone of Maldives' economy and India is the backbone of that tourism.

The tension in the relations between India and Maldives came when Muizzu was elected President of Maldives last year. During the election campaign, he spewed venom against India. According to the agreement with Maldives, some Indian soldiers were deployed there. Muizzu gave the slogan of 'India Out' to send them back. After coming to power, he said that India will remain a close ally of Maldives. But showing a difference between his words and actions, he adopted an anti-India stance. This increased the tension in bilateral relations. This tension reached its peak when in January this year, PM Modi promoted Lakshadweep as an excellent tourist destination and posted some pictures and videos of his visit there on social media. This angered Maldives and some of Muizzu's ill-mannered ministers made objectionable comments on PM Modi. Against this, the 'Boycott Maldives' campaign gained momentum in India. Since then, there has been tension in the relations between the two countries. Now Muizzu's participation in PM Modi's swearing-in ceremony can become an opportunity for the beginning of melting of the ice on the bilateral relations of the two countries.

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