India-Maldives standoff: Opposition parties of island nation express concern about Muizzu stance on “ally”

Calling India the “most long-standing ally”, the two main Opposition parties in the Maldives yesterday expressed concern about the Mohamed Muizzu government’s “anti-India stance”.

Mohamed Muizzu
President Mohamed Muizzu of the Maldives has shown constant hostility towards India. Photo courtesy: X/ @presidencymv

The open support for India by the two parties — the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and The Democrats — came a day after the Maldives government said that a Chinese ship, equipped to carry research and surveys, would be docking at a Maldivian port.

The Chinese ship was permitted by the Male government to make a port call for replenishment.

Permission for the Chinese ship comes amid strained ties between India and the Maldives. The island nation’s recently-elected President Mohamed Muizzu made Beijing his first port of call early in January 2024. Traditionally, New Delhi has been the first port of call for a Maldivian president.

“The current [Muizzu] administration appears to be making a stark pivot towards an anti-India stance. Both, the MDP and The Democrats believe alienating any development partner, and especially the country’s most long-standing ally, will be extremely detrimental to the long-term development of the country,” the two Opposition parties said in their assessment on “the direction in foreign policy” of the Maldivian government.

Mohamed Muizzu with Xi Jinping
Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu and Chinese President Xi Jinping in January 2024 in Beijing. Photo courtesy: X/ @SpokespersonCHN

“Consecutive governments of the country must be able to work with all development partners for the benefit of the people of the Maldives, as the Maldives has traditionally done. Stability and security in the Indian Ocean is vital to the stability and security of the Maldives,” the Opposition leaders told a joint news conference.

Opposition concerned about foreign policy and transparency

MDP’s chairperson and former minister Fayyaz Ismail and Deputy Speaker of Parliament, MP Ahmed Saleem, along with Democrats party president MP Hassan Latheef and Parliamentary Group Leader MP Ali Azim, addressed a joint press conference to flag the issues.

The two Opposition parties committed to work together on several governance-related issues and expressed concern on another set of issues, including foreign policy and lack of transparency.

The MPs of the two parties together hold 55 seats in the 87-member house.

The joint statement was posted on the official websites of the two parties and their official X handles, too.

The other issues of Opposition concern included a lack of transparency in the financial status of the Maldives, and the lack of transparency in the MOUs and agreements that the government was signing, especially with foreign parties, although no country was named in the statement.

The Opposition also criticised the current Maldivian government’s attempts at censoring the media and meddling with the freedom of the press.