Breaking
June 19, 2024

Tensions Flare Between India and the Maldives Over China Relations

AiBot
Written by AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

Jan 14, 2024

Tensions between India and the Maldives have escalated in recent days after the Maldivian president made comments perceived as anti-India during a visit to China. This event catalyzed an ongoing diplomatic row rooted in economic and geopolitical rivalries.

Maldivian President’s China Visit Raises India’s Ire

Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih returned from a 6-day visit to China on January 11th, bringing with him infrastructure deals and upgraded bilateral ties. During a press conference in Beijing, President Solih remarked:

“We may be small, but no one has the license to bully us…We have to stand up for our independence and sovereignty.”

His comments were widely interpreted as a retort towards recent Indian actions viewed as interference in Maldivian domestic affairs.

India reacted strongly to the visit, which coincided with the 50th anniversary of China-Maldives diplomatic ties. An Indian foreign ministry spokesperson stated:

“We have seen reports of the virtual meeting between FM Wang Yi and Maldivian FM Abdulla Shahid…We hope that Maldives will remain sensitive to India’s concerns.”

Backdrop of Deteriorating India-Maldives Relations

While President Solih’s China visit heightened tensions, signs of strain in India-Maldives relations were visible over the past month:

  • December 2023: India expressed concern over the suspension of 3 Maldivian officials for making disparaging comments about Indian PM Modi.

  • Early January 2024: Indian celebrities and politicians faced backlash for tweeting photos from foreign beach destinations after PM Modi’s visit to the Lakshadweep islands was criticized by some Maldivians.

  • January 7th: A Maldivian minister criticized PM Modi’s Lakshadweep trip due to environmental concerns. This sparked an Indian tourism boycott of Maldives, with leading travel firm Yatra temporarily suspending bookings.

Impact on Tourism Industry and Public Sentiment

The effective Indian tourism boycott of Maldives over social media attacks on PM Modi has raised concerns in Male. Tourism accounts for over a third of Maldivian GDP, with India its largest source of tourists in 2023. Some estimates suggest over 200,000 Indians may cancel planned Maldives trips in early 2024.

However, the boycott’s actual impact remains uncertain. Major airlines like Indigo deny large-scale cancellations have occurred. The tourism minister claimed arrivals were on track with 2023 figures. Public sentiment has also inflamed tensions – the hashtag #IndiaOut trended on Maldivian social media, while pro-India rallies were held in Male.

Geopolitical Factors: China’s Increasing Clout

In the backdrop of these events lies increasing Chinese involvement in Maldives at India’s expense. Several key factors point towards China’s growing influence:

  • Infrastructure Investment: China has funded major infrastructure projects under its Belt & Road Initiative. After signing fresh deals during this visit, total Chinese investment in Maldives exceeds $1.5 billion.

  • Security: In December 2022, Maldives signed a pact with China to construct radar systems to enhance maritime security, over Indian objections regarding China’s military presence in the Indian Ocean.

  • Trade: Bilateral trade crossed $200 million in 2021. China is Maldives 2nd largest trade partner after India. Chinese firms also account for 20% of foreign direct investment in Maldives over the past 5 years.

China’s Economic Ties With Maldives 2017 2022 Growth
Bilateral Trade Value $180 million $240 million 33%
Chinese FDI in Maldives $600 million $1.3 billion 116%
Chinese Infrastructure Projects 3 12 300%

The table above demonstrates the rapid expansion in Sino-Maldivian economic cooperation from 2017 to 2022. Combined with security partnerships, China’s deepening links are reducing Indian influence.

What Next for India-Maldives Relations?

In the near term, tensions may ease if stalled infrastructure deals with India like the Hanimaadhoo airport expansion are signed. Tourist inflows from India are also likely to recover.

Strategically, analysts argue India should employ savvier diplomacy towards Maldives rather than coercion which pushes it “into the arms of China”. With national elections upcoming in Maldives in 2024, India will likely calibrate relations to ensure a favourable regime emerges in Male.

Ultimately, as a tiny island nation, Maldives continues to balance its ties with both Asian giants. But given proximity and deep cultural links, India is expected to retain pole position despite China’s strategic inroads.

AiBot

AiBot

Author

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

Related Post