Maldives’ Anti-India President Addresses Parliament, 2 Parties Boycott

Maldives President Muizzu has drawn criticism for his remarks against India. Reuters

New Delhi:

Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu, who has drawn criticism for his anti-India stance, addressed the parliament today in the first session this year. According to Mihaaru newspaper, two main opposition parties — Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and The Democrats — have decided to boycott the presidential statement.

While MDP has not revealed why they would skip the presidential address, The Democrats have pointed to the re-appointment of three ministers rejected by parliament.

According to the Constitution of The Maldives, the President is required to address the parliament during the first session every year and outline the state of the nation and recommendations for tackling situations.

The Presidential address comes at a time when President Muizzu faces criticism for its anti-India stance. His presidential campaign had focused on reducing Indian influence in affairs of The Maldives. Soon after taking over, he visited China and met President Xi Jinping.

A major point of contention between India and The Maldives, a long-time ally, has been the presence of 80-odd Indian soldiers in the island nation.

According to a Reuters report, the Maldives foreign ministry has said India will remove its troops by May. The first set of Indian troops will leave by March 10 and the rest by May 10, the Maldives said, citing an agreement reached at a meeting in New Delhi.

The External Affairs Ministry has said the two countries “agreed on a set of mutually workable solutions to enable continued operation of Indian aviation platforms” that provide humanitarian services to the Maldives, Reuters reported.

President Muizzu’s anti-India stance has drawn criticism at home. The MDP and The Democrats recently issued a joint statement, describing the shift in the island nation’s foreign policy as “extremely detrimental”.

The statement said that “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”. It also stressed that “stability and security in the Indian Ocean is vital to the stability and security of the Maldives”.

Another party has urged President Muizzu to apologise to India. Gasuim Ibrahim, leader of the Jumhoori Party, has said the Maldives President must formally apologise to India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi and seek “diplomatic reconciliation” to mend ties.

Mr Ibrahim’s remarks referred to President Muizzu’s statement soon after he returned from China. “We may be small, but this doesn’t give them the licence to bully us,” he had said, without naming any country. The remark was seen as a swipe at India.

Asked about the strained ties, External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar has said neighbours need each other. “History and geography are very powerful forces. There is no escape from that,” he has said.

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