A pro-Abdulla Yameen paper has kicked up a fresh political storm in the Maldives by describing in an editorial Indian PM Narendra Modi as a Hindu extremist who is also anti-Muslim. The editorial in the local Dhivehi language went on to describe India as the biggest enemy nation and said that a “new best friend” be found for Maldives in China.
A unified opposition strongly protested against the “outrageous” article in the newspaper which, it said, had appeared in a mouthpiece of President Yameen and whose editorials were routinely approved by the President’s office before publication.
The opposition led by the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) believes this latest display of hostility should alert India about the dangers of overindulging the Yameen administration.
An MDP leader and former foreign minister of Maldives, Ahmed Naseem, told TOI that more robust Indian corrective measures will be in the interest of both India and the Maldives. “Appeasement with wishful thinking is not going to solve this crisis,” said Naseem.
Exactly what India can do remains in the realm of speculation though with the Maldives’ government bent on playing China against India in the strategically located archipelago in the Indian Ocean. The editorial in fact also accused India of plotting a coup against the Yameen government. It also accused India of acting against international law in Kashmir and of arming “Tamil terrorists” in Sri Lanka.
Opposition leaders like former presidents Mohamed Nasheed and Maumoon Abdul Gayoom came out strongly in support of India after the article was published. “I condemn the article…that brands India as an enemy of Maldives. Outrageous! No Maldivian in his right mind would subscribe to such views. India has been and remains a very close and trusted friend of Maldives,” said Gayoom.
Nasheed also strongly condemned the “anti-India diatribe in regime mouthpiece”. “Prez YAG’s reckless foreign policy is destroying our relationship with India. Maldives must be sensitive to India’s security and safety,” he said.
The Maldives remains the only country in the neighbourhood which Modi is yet to visit. Indian officials here seemed taken aback by the attack on the PM even though they avoided making any comment.
India had only last week reminded Male of its stated India First policy with the MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar saying that India expected Maldives to be sensitive to its concerns. This was after Male signed an FTA with China without taking the opposition into confidence and rushing it through the Parliamentary approval process. Days later, the government suspended 3 councillors for having an “unauthorised” meeting with Indian ambassador Akhilesh Mishra.
(Originally Published in TOI)