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Why we need “India Out”.

Hamdhan Shakeel

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#IndiaOut or the “India Out” movement has become one of the most pressing issues faced by the people of Maldives and President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s administration. However, before we go into why we need “India Out”, we need to understand what “India Out” is.

On 17th November 2018 President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih was sworn in as the President of Maldives after winning the election against President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom. In his inauguration speech President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih noted that the foreign policy of Maldives will be shifting from the East to South, hinting towards what would ultimately be known as the “India First” policies adopted by his administration.

On 8th June 2019 Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a State Visit to the Maldives and was bestowed “Rule of Nishan Izzudeen”, the highest honor awarded in the Maldives. During this visit President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih affirmed his position on an array of issues, declaring that his administration will employ an “India First” policy on key areas such as foreign policy.

Soon after a series of swift agreements were made including a treaty of extradition between both nations and a series of military agreements. The veil of secrecy surrounding the agreements raised the first red flags on the nature of relations between President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and the BJP led Indian Government.

The “India Out” movement first came into being after a whistleblower leaked drafts of the agreement made to station Indian military personnel under the pretext of maintaining and flying the two Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters. First gifted during President Mohamed Nasheed’s administration when in August 2009 President Mohamed Nasheed signed a bilateral pact with Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony to establish 26 radar systems in the Maldives along with an air force station from which Dornier aircrafts can operate. The Indian military personnel that came attached with the helicopter were meant to train locals on operating the vehicles.

Over a decade later the number of Indian military personnel has significantly increased while no locals had been trained to operate the Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopter or the Indian military operated Dornier aircrafts. Moreover, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s unilateral decision to establish a Consular General’s Office in Addu city where India is constructing a secretive military training facility raised public concern.

Throughout 2019 local youths raised concern on the internet under the banner of “India Out”, urging the Government of Maldives to adopt transparency in dealing with the public issues. However, New Delhi “yes-man” President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih elected to practice his “India First” policy by turning a blind eye on the public concerns.

Why Maldives?

India has strategic value in gaining control over the Maldives. The strategic value of Maldives lie snot in its vast tourism industry but rather its geographical location. Since olden days global super powers has been vying to gain control over the Maldives due to its close proximity to the 8 degrees channel. An international maritime route runs through this channel through which the majority of the global merchant vessels travels from the West to East.

For decades the British held on to its military base in Addu before retreating following the Independence of Maldives from the British. Even then they saw the importance of maintaining a military presence in this region as they continued to occupy the Chagos Archipelago  to the South of Maldives up until 2020 when the International Court of Justice ordered them to hand the islands back to the original inhabitants who were shipped off to Mauritius. The Chagos Archipelago played a key role in the U.S. and its allied forces as they launched their attack against Afghanistan and Iraq, proving the strategic location of the region even in modern times.

Another reason why India has vested interests in gaining control over the Maldives was explained by veteran diplomat Mohamed Nashid who has served with the Maldives Foreign Service for over 18 years. He stated that the likelihood of India establishing listening posts similar to those in Seychelles were very likely a sit would allow them to monitor the maritime routes and intercept as they saw fit using their military forces in the Maldives. This would lend them a distinctive hold over one of the most widely used global maritime corridors.

For India, Maldives is means to establish itself as a serious player in the eyes of its QUAD partner U.S. in countering Chinese presence in the international water. India’s role as a proxy of the U.S. in the region has been long left unacknowledged. On 15th September 2021 India’s fellow QUAD members signed into a new trilateral security agreement (AUKUS) under which the U.S. would provide Australia with 18 SSN class submarines, a technology which India had been vying for decades and denied by the U.S.

This effectively pushed India off the stage as a serious force capable of countering China, prompting Indian think tanks to call for its military to further enhance its presence in the Indian ocean. For a small island state such as the Maldives, this is a serious existential threat as India pushes its hegemony and imperialism to usurp control over the region.

Why we need “India Out”.

Government executives and activists argue that “India Out” is a political movement and that it would result in trade disruptions. Yes, it is a political movement just as Prime Minister turned President Ibrahim Nasir’s campaign to drive out the British was a political movement.

Fact remains that the current administration’s commitment to protecting the interests of India far outweigh its priority to protect the interests of its own people. Three years into the “India Out” campaign the Government of Maldives has failed or rather elected not to answer to the many public concerns regarding the India-Maldives relations.

For an administration which pledged transparency in its campaign trail, President Solih’s administration has been blunt in answering public concerns.

Instead of adopting transparency and revealing the details of the agreements to the public or event he Parliament, the Government continues to accuse the “India Out” movement of inciting hatred, even going as far as labeling those who call to remove Indian military forces in Maldives as “Traitors”. This prompts the question, traitors to whom?

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s right hand man and Chief of Staff Ali Zahir stated that the “India Out” was illegitimate and those who associate with the movement were traitors and that the Government of Maldives would no longer tolerate the movement.

Accusing members of a movement which aims to ensure the independence and sovereignty of the nation as traitors does not sum up. The allegation only raises question, while the members of the movement are clearly calling to secure their independence and security of Maldives, to exactly who are they traitors to?. The only viewpoint from which they can be deemed as traitors are form that of an Indian Government official.

It is this ambiguity and veil of secrecy surrounding this issue that fuels the “India Out” movement. Maldives is an independent nation with fiercely independent people. India’s strategic need to deploy their military and station themselves around the nation poses a threat the people of Maldives in that in the chance of a war, it is the people of Maldives who would have to face collateral damages. Their unwelcomed continued presence can only be maintained through interference in domestic affairs. The current administrations loyalty to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and its willingness to overlook the concerns of its own people is why we need “India Out”.

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New Japanese Ambassador Takeuchi Midori presents her credentials to President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.

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The new Japanese ambassador to the Maldives, Takeuchi Midori has presented her credentials to President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.

Ambassador Takeuchi Midori presented her credentials to President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih at a special ceremony held earlier today at the President’s Office.

Speaking at the ceremony President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih noted on the Ambassador Takeuchi Midori’s predecessor Keiko Yanai’s work in enhancing bilateral relations between the two nations. President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih expressed hope in continuing to further strengthen the bilateral relations between the two nations under Ambassador Takeuchi Midori tenure.

Ambassador Takeuchi Midori also spoke at the ceremony, noting that this year marks the 55th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the Maldives and Japan. She expressed hope that the two nations would work together on regional and global issues.

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MMPRC & Industry Partners take part in one of the biggest Global Trade Fairs held in Spain, Fitur 2022

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Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC/Visit Maldives) and industry partners are marketing the destination at one of the biggest global trade fairs in Spain, FITUR 2022, held in Madrid. FITUR 2022, conducted from the 19th to the 23rd of January 2022, is the global meeting point for tourism professionals and the leading trade fair for inbound and outbound markets globally.

FITUR brings together travel agencies, wholesalers – tour operators, hotels & accommodation, carrier companies, leisure & culture, infrastructures, Spanish official organizations and travel media. The B2B and B2C event offer excellent business opportunities, access to qualified and relevant travel buyers, influencers, and market professionals. Over 42,000 trade visitors and more than 20,000 general public visitors are expected to attend the event, while around 2,500 journalists from 33 countries will cover the event.

The Maldives is represented at the fair by MMPRC along with 13 registered industry partners: Book Me Maldives, Intour Maldives, Lets Go Maldives, Travel Connection, Sun Ocean, Perfect Voyage, Roam Maldives, Lily Hotels, Villa Hotels & Resorts, Brennia Kottefaru, the Standard Hurawalhi Maldives, Medhufushi Island Resort and Finolhu Baa Atoll Maldives.

MMPRC is participating in this global trade event to market the destination as a safe haven offering unique experiences to tourists, under MMPRC’s marketing strategy which focuses on maintaining destination momentum and increasing arrival numbers from Spain and around the globe. Through this event, we will provide the latest travel guidelines, information about the unique geographical formation of the Maldives’ scattered islands, the stringent safety measures in place in our resorts, guesthouses, liveaboards and hotels.

By the end of December 2021, Spain was the 7th top source market to the Maldives in 2021. During this period a total of 1,312,706 tourists arrived in the Maldives out of which 37,186 were from Spain. This contributes to 2.8% of the total arrival for 2021. MMPRC held several activities for the Spanish market in 2021, such as TV, social and digital media marketing campaigns, familiarization trips, and participation in FITUR 2021. More such activities will be held for this market for 2022 as well.

In 2021, MMPRC carried out over 260 different activities in 22 global markets. This includes interviews given for news, magazines and TV, marketing campaigns, webinars, familiarization trips, and participation in fairs and exhibitions. The greatest testament to the success of these activities came in December, as the Maldives secured the title of ‘World’s Leading Destination’ (among several other accolades) at the 2021 World Travel Awards, globally recognised as the hallmark of industry excellence. This is the second consecutive year that the Maldives had successfully earned this prestigious title, a shining testimony of the trust placed in the ‘magic of Maldivian hospitality’ by travelers from all over the globe.

This year also celebrates an exceptional year to visit the Maldives – the Golden Jubilee celebration of tourism in the Maldives kicked off earlier last year with plans to conduct new and exciting activities throughout the year. MMPRC has planned over 60 in-person events for the year 2022, including 11 fairs, roadshows and events scheduled for just the first quarter.

Source: http://www.visitmaldives.com

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The new Japanese Ambassador presents credentials to the President

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H.E. Takeuchi Midori, the new Ambassador of Japan to the Republic of Maldives, presented her credentials to H.E. President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. The ceremony was held at the President’s Office this morning.

Welcoming the new Ambassador and congratulating her on her new appointment, President Solih highlighted the key role played by her predecessor, H.E. Keiko Yanai, in improving bilateral relations between the two countries. He expressed hope for continuing and further strengthening existing relations during the new Ambassador’s tenure.

Speaking at the meeting, the Ambassador highlighted that this year marks the 55th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations between the two nations, expressing hope to further strengthen bilateral ties and work together on regional and global issues.

President Solih expressed his appreciation for the significant contributions made by the Japanese government across various sectors of the Maldives. The President happily noted the Japanese assistance to the Maldives during the Covid-19 pandemic, stating that the Covid-19 Crisis Response Emergency Support Loan was the largest concessional loan received from Japan to combat the pandemic.

President Solih thanked the Japanese government for its ongoing development projects in the Maldives, mentioning the Sea Wall Renovation project, Digital Terrestrial Television Broadcasting Project, and also thanked the Japanese Government for the assistance received for the development of Maldives Health Sector, Education, Sports, Agriculture and community development. He also noted the scholarship opportunities received under the Japanese Development Scholarship Programme to strengthen human resource capacity in the Maldives as some of the significant contributions.

The Ambassador expressed her desire to further address the Maldives’ developmental needs and strengthen cooperation in various sectors of the Maldives including fisheries, agriculture, environment, disaster prevention, countering Climate Change and enhancing governance. The President and the Ambassador further explored avenues for increasing cooperation between the two countries.

The Maldives and Japan established diplomatic relations in 1967.

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