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“Big Brother” to “#India Out”- a failed foreign policy?

Hamdhan Shakeel



The Maldives and India has enjoyed warm relations time immemorial. The two nations have enjoyed their independence from the British for decades with a sense of brotherly love and trust. The Maldivians regularly traveled to India for critical medical care and commerce while Indian expats made up the bulk of foreigners in the Maldives. A lingual and cultural mashup was even born amidst this whole exchange where Maldivians who fluently spoke and understood Indian languages were common while Indians who understood “Dhivehi” also became the norm. However, this has turned around in the recent years under Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s increasingly aggressive foreign policies and President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s “India First” foreign policy.

For the first time, the general public of the Maldives has started to raise concern over their neighbor’s absolute control over the Maldives.

On 25th May 2021 the Indian Union Cabinet led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached a consensus and approved to establish an Indian Consulate in Addu city Maldives. A decision which invoked the ire from the ardent residents of the island nation of Maldives and particularly from its southern most atoll and city, Addu city.

Later that night President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih met the press for the fifth time since the pandemic began and was asked on how the Indian federal cabinet decided to establish their consulate in Addu city, Maldives and whether the Government of Maldives had a prior agreement on establishing the consulate. President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s answer to this questions proved that the decision was made unilaterally by Indian Prime Minister and his cabinet without consulting the Government of Maldives. This raises questions on the Indian influence of the Maldives and the sovereignty of the Maldives.

That very day, a social media campaign was launched against the establishment of the consulate in Addu under the banner of “#SaveAddu”. People from both ends of the political spectrum joined campaign as they raised voice and question India’s motives behind the establishment of the consulate in Addu city.

Loans and bases-India at every step.

The suspicions on the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s unilateral decision to establish the consulate in Addu city stems from the Police Training Academy being constructed under the Indian government full “free aid”. The massive compound spanning roughly 1.3million sqft is constructed by an Indian contractor under the name of Sri Avantika Contractors Ltd for $18 million.

Police Academy under cosntruction in Addu city.

The secrecy behind the contracting process, construction and the fact that the Maldivian Police Service and the military wing has little to no say or control on what goes there has long fueled allegations that the Police Academy will in fact operate as a military base for India. It is now being speculated that the new consulate will be stationed at the military base, further fueling the suspicions against the growing Indian influence in the Maldives.

Stationing military personnel under the guise of training programs is a well-known and used tactic by India as evident by the case of the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan. In 1961, India established a training mission in Bhutan for the Royal Bhutan Army and the Royal Bodyguard of Bhutan. The mission was supposed to provide training for the Bhutanese army following the volatile period after departure of the British from the region. However, the Indian Military Training Team (IMTRAT) never left Bhutan and currently 2,000 Indian soldiers stationed are permanently stationed in Bhutan as a part of this training program.

In addition to this a subdivision of the Indian Army Corps, Border and Roads Organization has also been operating in Bhutan since 1961 to construct “vehicle worthy roads”. Indian domination of the foreign policy, defence and the trade of the Kingdom of Bhutan was paved under Bhutan-India Treaty of Friendship under which India would “guide” Bhutan in those aforementioned areas. This has since then led the “guiding” to become ‘domination” with the Bhutanese government taking stronger actions in 1972 to “enhance” the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Bhutan.

Indian history with Bhutan is reminiscent of the situation in the Maldives as the Bhutan with a small population of 763,092 people got the short end of the stick while India continued to assert its dominion over Bhutan under India’s hegemonic policies.

It is a known fact that India intends to station their soldiers in the Maldives as evident when the Indian government offered $1 billion in exchange for India to station their military in the Maldives. According to Nikkei Asia Review, the offer was made by the Indian Government to Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid on his 4 day official visit to India on December 17th 2018.

Allegations against the Indian government of establishing a military presence in the Maldives does not only stem from their eagerness to “invest” in Addu city or their financial offers. Several Indian investments at key military points around the Maldives has also been fueling the allegations against India for the past years. India has also announced a massive plan to expand the Hanimaadhoo International Airport.

Indian military personnel at Hanimaadhoo airport, Maldives.

In addition to this the  Indian External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar signed an agreement on 21st February 2021 to develop the Uthuru Thilafalhu Project (UTF). A harbor and dockyard which could play a key role in the national security of the Maldives. The government’s decision to handover this project has not only been rejected by the general public, but even SOE MTCC’s MD Ali Azim even commented that MTCC has the capacity to develop the UTF without handing it over to a foreign party.

The two Indian Dornier aircrafts and the Helicopters operated by Indian Military personnel in the Maldives and their failure to “train” Maldivian pilots to operate the vehicles after more than a decade has only aggravated the situation.

Veil of Secrecy.

The current administration’s aversion to “the right to information” has further exacerbated the allegations against India and its influence on the Maldives. Several local journalists and news organizations who wanted to inquire on the Indian loans and projects were denied with some even launching formal complaints through the judiciary on their right to information. The Government has even denied the people the financial details of some of the loans taken from the Government of India.

The tipping point of this enigmatic policy by government of Maldives was when they officially refused to disclose the number of Indian soldiers in the Maldives stating that doing so would be a “danger to national security”. They have also refused to disclose any matter pertaining to India and especially their military.

Result of a weak foreign policy?

The global shift in power in the recent years has caused a number of states to elect ultra-nationalistic leaders and policies. As the “west against east” policies adopted by the world turns outdated, these ultra-nationalistic leaders and their fascists policies turn to make their mark on history by playing the top dog.

Increasingly aggressive foreign policies and territorial conflicts has become the new approaches to gaining popularity and public approval  for these leaders.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also amped up India’s defence spending in the recent years by up to 14%, making it the world’s third highest military spender. The Indian Maritime doctrine and the Indian Maritime Military Strategy paints a clear picture of how this increase in budget is being justified.

India’s growing military presence in the whole of Asia is being justified as their right to protect India’s “interests”.

Sovereignty of Maldives at stake.

The Maldives as a sovereign state needs to question how India could justify their evident influence over the Maldives. But, they cannot be entirely blamed for asserting their influence over the Maldives. In a dog-eat-dog world, each nation must defend their own interests and sovereignty. In this case, the geographical location of the Maldives is an Interest of India. So how does Maldives react to when interests of India and Maldives collide? By adopting an “India First” policy.

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih wih Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s weak and lackluster “India First” policy has caused much damage to the age old relations between both countries as Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid buckles to every request and demand by the Indian’s even at the cost of the interests of the Maldives.

Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid has been described as the best friend of India.

It is not far-fetched to state that the once bilateral relations between the Maldives and India is now a unilateral one. The current hegemonic nature of the relation with India now directly threatens the very sovereignty of the Maldives as the Indian Government unilaterally concludes to make decisions regarding the other state.

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China's National Day Supplement

Remarks on Celebrating the 73rd Anniversary of the Founding of the People’s Republic of China & the 50th Anniversary of the Establishment of the Diplomatic Relations between China and Maldives





This year marks the 73rd anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Over the past 73 years, earthshaking changes have taken place in China.

Since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core has coordinated the overall strategy of the Great Rejuvenation of the Chinese Nation and the great change that has not happened in a century, have solved many tough problems that were long on the agenda but remained unsolved, accomplished many things of vital importance and long-term significance, and withstood the test of various risks and challenges at home and abroad. The Path of China’s development becomes wider and wider, the Governance of China becomes more and more mature, and the Theory of China becomes more and more prevailing. The Chinese people have successfully built a moderately prosperous society in all respects and fulfilled the first centenary goal. We are embarking on a new journey to fully build a modern socialist country, march toward the second centenary goal, and advance toward the grand goal of realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.

This year is of great historical significance in the development of the CPC and China, as the 20th CPC National Congress will be convened on 16th of October. This Congress will, in response to the expectation of all the Chinese people, set well-conceived goals and tasks for China’s development in the next five years and beyond, and it will draw an overarching plan for China’s future development. Having reached a new historical starting point, China will follow the Chinese path to modernization to achieve the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. China will work with other countries to make every effort for peace and development, shoulder the responsibility for solidarity and progress, build a community with a shared future for mankind, and embrace an even better world.

At present, the COVID-19 pandemic has kept resurfacing. Global security faces uncertainty. Global economic recovery is fragile and unsteady, and various risks and crises are emerging. The world has entered a new phase of turbulence and transformation. Changes unseen in a century are accelerating. At the same time, the world continues to move toward multi-polarity; economic globalization is deepening, and our societies are becoming increasingly digitized and culturally diversified. Indeed, countries are becoming ever more interconnected and interdependent. Peace and development remain the underlying trend of our times. Around the world, the people’s call for progress and cooperation is getting louder than ever before.

In response to the common aspiration of the international community for peace and development, and make up the global governance deficit, President Xi Jinping proposed the Global Development Initiative at the 76th session of the UN General Assembly. Putting the people at the center, this initiative is a rallying call to refocus attention of the international community on development and build a global community of development. At the recent High-level Dialogue on Global Development he chaired, President Xi Jinping announced several dozen concrete major steps to implement this initiative, generating strong impetus for accelerating the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

President Xi Jinping proposed the Global Security Initiative at the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2022. He called on the international community to pursue common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security, to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries, to abide by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, to take the legitimate security concerns of all countries seriously, to peacefully resolve disputes through dialogue and consultation, and to maintain security in both traditional and non-traditional domains. By putting forward this initiative, he has contributed China’s vision to reducing the peace deficit facing humanity and provided China’s input to meeting global security challenges.

As China has one-fifth of the global population, its march toward modernization has important, far-reaching significance for the world. The path that China pursues is one of peace and development, not one of plunder and colonialism; it is a path of win-win cooperation, not one of zero-sum game; and it is one of harmony between man and Nature, not one of destructive exploitation of resources. We will continue to contribute our input to meeting the challenges facing human development, and make our contribution to creating a new form of human advancement.

This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the Maldives. Over the past half a century, China-Maldives relations have withstood the test of international vicissitudes and become more mature and stable. China and the Maldives have been upholding the spirit of friendship and neighborliness, treating each other as equals, conducting cooperation for development, supporting each other with mutual assistance and tiding over difficulties together. China highly appreciates the Maldives’ long-standing understanding and support for China’s just claims on issues concerning China’s core interests and major concerns, and China also supports the Maldives in safeguarding its sovereignty, independence and national dignity, and will continue to uphold justice for the Maldives at the international arena. The Maldivian government has a longstanding and firm commitment to the one-China principle. The China-Maldives relations have become a model of friendly exchanges, mutual benefit and win-win cooperation between countries with different systems and cultures in international arena.

In recent years, under the strategic guidance of the leaders of the two countries, China-Maldives relations have maintained a good momentum of steady development. In September 2014, Chinese President Xi Jinping paid a historic state visit to Maldives and the two sides agreed to establish future-oriented all-round friendly and cooperative partnership, lifting the China-Maldives relations to a new level. In July 2021, Chinese President Xi Jinping had a phone call with Maldivian President Ibrahim Solih and reached important consensus on deepening and expanding exchanges and cooperation in various fields between the two countries, setting the direction for the future development of the bilateral relations. In January 2022, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi paid a successful visit to Maldives with fruitful outcomes, opening a new chapter in China-Maldives relations. Maldivian Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid visited China twice over the past year, which enhanced the mutual trust and friendship between the leaders of the two countries, and laid a sound foundation for the future development of bilateral relations.

As an all-round friendly and cooperative partner, China has been always strongly supporting the Maldives to speed up economic and social development and improve self-development capability. Recent years have witnessed fruitful results on jointly building the “Belt and Road” by China and Maldives. The China-Maldives Friendship Bridge is a landmark project of the “Belt and Road” Initiative. Since it opens to traffic 4 year ago, the bridge has witnessed over 100 million crossings by the local people and has dramatically promoted the sustainable development of Maldivian economy and society. As foreign minister Abdulla Shahid said the China-Maldives Friendship Bridge built with China’s assistance had brought enormous changes to the country and greatly accelerated the economic development process of the Maldives and befitted the Maldivian people. So far Chinese companies has completed more than 11,000 social housing units, which have contributed a lot in the improvement of living conditions of thousands and thousands of Maldivian families. Power generation and power grid connection built by Chinese companies meet 80% of all electricity demand of the residents and enterprises in the Greater Malé. Expansion and Upgrading of Velana International Airport Project will further promote the development of Maldivian tourism. The great contributions made by the Chinese side to the development of Maldivian economy and society will further enhance the solid friendship between the two peoples.

Looking into the future on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties, the two countries should continue with the past and open up the future, promote all-round cooperation to a new high and write a new chapter for the friendly and mutually-beneficial cooperation with a more far-reaching eyesight and broader vision. In this regard, I would like to put forward the following 4 suggestions.

Firstly, both sides should blueprint and steer the future development of China-Maldives relations under the guidance of the important consensus reached by the leaders of the two countries.

Secondly, both sides should adhere to the valuable experience to ensure the steady and smooth development of the bilateral relations. Both sides should continue to respect each other, treat each other as equals, help each other with sincerity as well as support each other on the issues of our respective core interests and major concerns. China will continue to support Maldives in safeguarding its national sovereignty and territorial integrity and in pursuing an independent foreign policy. We believe that the Maldivian government will uphold its longstanding commitment to the one-China principle and firmly support China to defend its core interests.

Thirdly, both sides should deepen mutually beneficial cooperation in full scale so as to benefit the people of the two countries. In this regard, both sides should continue to push forward Belt & Road cooperation with high quality, speed up major projects and tourist cooperation. I hope the Maldivian side could finish ratification of China-Maldives FTA as early as possible in order to boost the post Covid-19 recovery of the Maldivian economy. We should explore new areas of cooperation in telecommunication, big data and marine economy. We need coordinate closely in international affairs to safeguard the international system with the United Nations at its core and the international order based on international law.

Finally, both sides should expand the people-to-people and cultural exchanges. We welcome more and more Maldivian youngsters to further their study in China. A Chinese language center based in Villa College has been set up now, which will further facilitate the Maldivians especially youngsters to learn Chinese language and culture. The visa exemption agreement of the two countries has come to effect. We believe that as the Covid-19 pandemic situation eases and the direct flights resume in the future, the people-to-people exchanges between the two countries will increase, which will further promote the traditional friendship of the two countries.

History has proved and will always prove that maintaining good-neighborly friendly relations with mutual benefit and win-win cooperation between China and the Maldives accords with the fundamental interests of the two countries and peoples, and benefits the peace and development of the region and beyond as well. We believe that with the 50th anniversary of our diplomatic ties as a new starting point, China and the Maldives will enhance mutual trust, expand cooperation and deepen friendship, jointly embark on a new journey of China-Maldives relations and promote the future-oriented all-round friendly and cooperative partnership between China and Maldives to a new level.

Finally, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish China enjoy prosperity and its people wellbeing and wish China-Maldives relations flourish in the future.

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