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After having led the “India Out” campaign in the Maldives, Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu arrives in India to attend PM Modi’s oath ceremony 

While seven foreign heads of state have been invited to the historic event, the presence of Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu assumes greater significance amidst the strained diplomatic relationship between the two neighbouring countries.

Several foreign delegates invited to the historic swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Narendra Modi have landed in New Delhi. Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina arrived on June 8th, while Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu landed in the capital just hours before the event, where Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi will take the oath of office for his third historic term.

Notably, while seven foreign heads of state have been invited to the historic event, the presence of Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu assumes greater significance amidst the strained diplomatic relationship between the two neighbouring countries.

Maldivian President Muizzu, who led the “India Out” campaign during his presidential election, on Saturday stated that he would be “honoured” to attend Narendra Modi’s swearing-in ceremony. He accepted the invitation from India’s Higher Commissioner to the Maldives, Munu Mahawar, who presented the letter of invitation to the President during a courtesy call at the President’s Office.

Accepting the invitation, Muizzu added that his visit to India for the historic event would demonstrate that bilateral ties between the two countries are heading in a “positive direction”. Strikingly, this is Muizzu’s first visit to India after the pro-China leader assumed office in Male. 

Additionally, he was among the first heads of state to congratulate PM Modi and the BJP-led NDA on their electoral success. On June 4th, the day Lok Sabha election results were announced, he expressed his desire to work with PM Modi to advance the shared interests of the two countries.

On 4th June, he wrote, “Congratulations to Prime Minister @narendramodi, and the BJP and BJP-led NDA, on the success in the 2024 Indian General Election, for the third consecutive term. I look forward to working together to advance our shared interests in pursuit of shared prosperity and stability for our two countries.” 

From India Out Campaign to seeking debt relief: Economically-strained President Muizzu tones down anti-India rhetoric to seek assistance for the country

The diplomatic ties between India and the Maldives have been tumultuous since November last year when People’s National Congress leader Mohamed Muizzu assumed office and took charge as Maldivian President. Known for his pro-China tilt, the PNC leader led the ‘India Out’ campaign during his Presidential election campaigning. Hours after taking the oath of office, the pro-China leader asked India to withdraw Indian military personnel from his country. 

Following his government’s repeated statements, the Indian military personnel were replaced by civilians earlier this month.

Incidentally, the strained diplomatic ties further worsened after a few Maldivian Ministers made derogatory posts about India, Indians, and PM Modi over the latter’s visit to Lakshadweep. While PM Modi had made no mention of Maldives while promoting tourism potential in India’s islands, Maldivian Ministers made uncalled-for and derogatory remarks while responding to Indian social media users who claimed that Lakshadweep could replace Maldives as a preferred tourism destination for Indians. 

Strikingly, Political commentator Raushan Sinha shared PM Modi’s video ‘promoting tourism in Lakshadweep’ and asserted that it is a “big setback to the new Chinese puppet govt of Maldives”. The post irked Mariyam Shiuna, Maldives’ Deputy Minister of Youth Empowerment, Information and Arts. The Maldivian leader responded to Mr. Sinha’s post by calling Prime Minister Narendra Modi a “clown” and a “puppet of Israel”, which she later deleted. 

The Indian government had then raised strong objections with the Maldivian government against the remarks made by Mariyam Shiuna. Subsequently, Shiuna, along with two more ruling party leaders in the Maldives, were later suspended

On their part, several Indians announced a boycott of their trip to Maldives. After the boycott trend in India, Maldives, whose economy depends on tourism, approached China urging Beijing to send more tourists to their nation. Following massive backlash from India and Maldives opposition parties, President Muizzu appealed to India to provide debt relief calling India their “closest ally”, effectively sounding a reconciliatory tone amidst the diplomatic row and Male’s strained economic condition.   

In an interview with local media ‘Mihaaru’, Muizzu further claimed that he has “not taken any action nor made any statements” that may strain the relationship between the two countries. Notably, it was his first interview after he assumed office in Male. 

However, as the relationship was witnessing signs of thaw courtesy of India consistently heeding Maldivian requests for assistance, Maldivian Minister Mariyam Shiuna again made a derogatory post in April this year. Through the post which was later deleted, she mocked the Ashoka Chakra of the Indian National flag. 

The translated version of the tweet reads, “The MDP is heading towards the mouth. We need not fall into their mouth again.” The post also included a morphed election campaign poster of the opposition party, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), replacing the image of a compass with an image of Ashoka Chakra, insulting the Indian flag. The image of the fake poster also included the symbols of BJP along with the symbol of MDP, accusing of collusion between the two parties. Notably, MDP has been highly critical of Mohamed Muizzu’s government’s anti-India policy. 

However, despite derogatory posts by Maldivian ministers and anti-India rhetoric by PNC leaders, India has been assuring that China doesn’t tighten its grip on Male and that Maldives doesn’t go bankrupt under the Chinese debt trap strategy. India has been able to salvage the situation in the economically strained country and prompting the Muizzu government to sound a reconciliatory tone and further build, improve diplomatic ties with India. 

Last month, the Maldivian government thanked India for $50 Million in budgetary support and described it as a “gesture of goodwill”. 

President Muizzu’s visit to India for PM Modi’s swearing-in ceremony has broken the ice, allowing the Maldivian leader to move past his anti-India campaign rhetoric and work towards rebuilding strong ties with India. The visit can accelerate the thaw in both countries’ diplomatic relationship and prompt Muizzu to take a balanced approach in International politics while maintaining cordial ties with India, or could end up as a redux of Shahbaz Sharif’s invitation to India for the oath-taking ceremony.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staff
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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