(Mains GS 2 : India and its Neighborhood- Relations.)
- Amid the “India Out” campaign that has been roiling the Maldives for months, its President Ibrahim Mohammed Solih on Thursday issued a decree banning protests against the country, citing a threat to national security.
- The anti-India campaign was first led by a social media activist, but former President Abdulla Yameen has become its face since his release from prison last December.
- During his tenure in office from 2013 to 2018, Yameen gave Maldives’ foreign policy a pronounced pro-China tilt which facilitated Beijing to project its power in the Indian Ocean region and market its Belt and Road Initiative.
- Mr. Yameen, who served two years in jail after losing power in 2018, wanted a strong political narrative to make a comeback, particularly as the country heads to its presidential election in 2023.
India First foreign policy:
- When Mr. Yameen was in power, his government’s ultimatum to India to withdraw two of its helicopters from two atolls had triggered tensions.
- But relations between the two countries improved remarkably after Mr. Solih’s Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) came to power in 2018.
- After taking office, the Solih government sent out clear signals that it intended to repair ties with India, which had taken a hit during the Yameen presidency and his government also declared an India First foreign policy.
- India has historically played an important role in the Maldives as a friendly big neighbor but China’s rise in the Indian Ocean region has raised the strategic profile of this small, import-dependent island-nation of 5,50,000 people, where both countries vied for influence.
- In the past four years, India has emerged as the Maldives’s main security and economic partner, committing $1.4 billion towards its ‘socio-economic development needs’.
- In February 2021, it signed the Uthuru Thila Falhu (UTH) harbour development deal with Male to develop the National Defence Force Coast Guard Harbour.
- The challenge before India is to build closer ties with all political factions of the Maldives while helping the country meet its economic and security requirements.