Once-receding ‘India Out’ campaign has gained new traction in Maldives, to the embarrassment of President Mohamed Solih, the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), and others in the country who wanted further momentum in the bilateral ties between India and Maldives.
- The Indian High Commission has sought government action and greater security following what it calls “recurring articles and social media posts attacking the dignity of the High Commission” and diplomats posted in the country.
- India has also cited the Preamble of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (1961).
What are the factors that have led to such sentiments in Maldives?
Controversy over Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters
- Two Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters (ALF) were given by India to the Maldives in 2010 and in 2015.
- Both of these were used for ocean search-and-rescue operations, maritime weather surveillance and for airlifting patients between islands.
- Yameen’s party, PPM tried to portray that by gifting these helicopters, India was creating military presence in the country.
- This whipped up the anti-India sentiments as Maldives Citizens considered it as affront to their Sovereignty.
- However, Solih extended the stay and use of these choppers in the country.
- The anti-India sentiment is nearly a decade old and can be traced back to when Abdulla Yameen Abdul Dayroom became president in 2013.
- He used anti-India sentiments for his political mobilization and started tilting China.
- Ibrahim Mohamed Solih who became President in 2018 has restored Maldives close ties with India.
Perception of interference in Domestic Affairs
- India being a big neighbor, there are unsubstantiated perceptions.
- Allegations on Indian Diplomats stationed in Maldives interfering in Domestic affairs are also prevalent.
Intense Social media campaign
- Islamist news portal Dhiyares and its founder Ahmed Azaan are running an 'India Out' campaign that relies on Chinese propaganda to whip up anti-India sentiment in the Maldives.
- Ahmed Azaan was upset when the Maldives called out Pakistan's attempt to target India at a virtual meet of the Organization of Islamic Countries and defended New Delhi against the allegations of Islamaphobia.
- At one point, Azaan also attacked the government of the Maldives for not allowing a Chinese research vessel to enter into Maldivian waters.
- On multiple occasions over the last two years, Azaan has accused India of blocking the Maldivian government from taking financial assistance from China.
- Over the last few weeks, Azaan's campaign has intensified.
- On target now are the relations between India and the Maldives, Indian investments in the country, including projects bagged by the Indian private sector, and Indian diplomats stationed in Male.
Link with Lakshadweep
- To Maldives, Lakshadweep is not only a geographical extension of the Maldivian North but also a place with which they share real historic linkages, though distanced by time.
- Military interests are perceived by campaigners behind India’s intention of opening up an Indian consulate in the Addu City and setting up a police academy with Indian assistance.
- It is also claimed that India will have exclusive rights over the coastguard dockyard at Uthuru Thila Falhu.
- The agreement between India and the Maldives on the hydrographic survey was criticized arguing that the agreement allows India to access underwater information and sell the information to others.
Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, 1961
- It is an international treaty that defines a framework for diplomatic relations between independent countries.
- It specifies the privileges of a diplomatic mission that enable diplomats to perform their function without fear of coercion or harassment by the host country.
- This forms the legal basis for diplomatic immunity. Its articles are considered a cornerstone of modern international relations.