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Daily News Analysis

India Out Campaign                                     

28th December, 2021 International News

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  • The recent ‘India Out’ campaign in the Maldives is against the opposition to the Uthuru Thila Falhu (UTF) harbour development deal with India in February 2021, which is being seen as a way of allowing Indian military presence on native soil.


More about news:

  • The 'India Out' campaign, is widely spreading across social media platforms.
  • Reports are being published in Maldives media alleging that the present incumbent government is allowing India to establish a military base in the island by signing secret agreements, in exchange for financial assistance or other material benefits.
  • This allegation is made against the government because the leader of the current ruling party Mohamed Nasheed urged India to intervene militarily to restore peace and democracy in 2018.
  • Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) of former President Abdulla Yameen and its coalition partner People’s National Congress (PNC) are trying to mobilise people against the current government by spreading misleading propaganda against India.
  • Indiaout campaign was launched by the opposition coalition PPM and PNC both on the street as well as on social media demanding the expulsion of Indian military personnel present in the country.


How India has become a victim of the internal political situation in the Maldives.

  • Former President Abdullah Yameen is perceived as a friend of China. During Yameen’s term as President from 2013 to 2018, New Delhi-Male relations deteriorated drastically.
  • On the other hand, the present Solih administration opt for an ‘India first’ foreign policy.
  • The Solih government has rejected the ‘India Out’ campaign and has expressed concern at attempts to spread “misguided and unsubstantiated information to propagate hatred towards India”.


Why this campaign is gaining ground again?

  • Although campaign gained popularity in the past year or so, its root cause can be traced back to 2013 when Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom of the Progressive Party (PPM) became the president.
  • The next presidential election is scheduled in 2023, and Mr. Yameen is trying to make a political comeback, tapping on both the anti-incumbency, and the anti-India sentiments among sections loyal to him.


India’s reaction:

  • India’s requested to take action against local media and have repeatedly urged people to not spread hate against India.
  • Foreign ministry’s urged the media not to affect bilateral relations and, as per article 29 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, it is the responsibility of the Maldives to treat the diplomats with due respect, and take all appropriate steps to prevent any attack on freedom, and dignity of foreign diplomats.


India-Maldives bilateral Relations:

India and Maldives are neighbors as they share a maritime border. Relations have been friendly and close in strategic, economic and military cooperation. India continues to contribute to maintaining security on the island nation.

Historical relations:

  • Both nations’ were Britain colonies.
  • India was among the first to recognise Maldives after its independence in 1965 and to establish diplomatic relations with the country. India established its mission at Malé in 1972.
  • India and Maldives share ethnic, linguistic, cultural, religious and commercial links steeped in antiquity and enjoy cordial and multi-dimensional relations.

Political relations:

  • India and Maldives have consistently supported each other in multilateral fora such as the UN, the Commonwealth, the NAM and the SAARC.
  • High connectivity: High People-to-People contacts, as Air India operates daily flights to Malé from Thiruvananthapuram, Bangalore and Chennai.
  • Tourism: The proximity of location and improvements in air connectivity in recent years has led to a very substantial increase in the number of Indians visiting Maldives for tourism (around 33,000) and business.
  • Soft diplomacy: India is a preferred destination for Maldivian for education, medical treatment, recreation and business.
  • Diaspora: Indians are the second largest expatriate community in the Maldives.

Why Maldives matters to India?

Strategic location:

  • Maldives holds strategic importance for India under the Modi government’s ‘Neighborhood First’ policy due to its location in the Indian Ocean.
  • The Eight Degree Channel is one of the major maritime lanes of the world.
  • Stability, maturity and democratic systems in the Maldives can ensure peace and security in the Indian Ocean.


Major challenges:

 Chinese influence:

  • India has been quite apprehensive of the growing Chinese influence in Maldives even as it continues to give utmost priority to the island nation.
  • There have been growing concerns regarding China’s role in the Maldivian economy through so-called “debt-trap diplomacy.”
  • Maldives incurred a debt of about $1.4 billion owing to loans from China to finance several of its infrastructure projects.
  • Maldives and China had also entered into a free trade agreement.

India’s position in Male crisis:

  • During the pro-Beijing regime of their former President Abdulla Yameen, ties between the nations got strained. In fact, there came a point in 2018 when India even contemplated a military intervention.

Dhruv controversy:

  • India gave two Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters (ALF) to the Maldives in 2010 and 2015 both of which were to be used for ocean search-and-rescue operations, maritime weather surveillance and for airlifting patients between islands.
  • However, some people in the PPM stirred up a controversy by saying that the helicopters marked the start of military presence in the country.
  • The Maldives government requested India to take back the helicopters in 2016, but India refused to do

Lack of transparency

  • Another issue is the lack of transparency when it comes to the signing of agreements between India and the Solih government.
  • The Maldives government has refused to share details of agreements signed with India citing security reasons

The Naval Base controversy

  • The Uthuru Thilafalhu is a strategically located atoll near the capital Malé and was called the UTF Harbour project.
  • Also, in 2016, an action plan was signed by both the governments for defence cooperation to enhance “shared strategic and security interests of the two countries in the Indian Ocean region”.
  • However, after the Solih government took over, there was speculation that the UTF project would be turned into an Indian naval base.

Measures taken so far:

  • After coming to power for the second time in May last year, Prime Minister Modi’s first international destination was Maldives. He was also the only head of state to attend Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s swearing-in ceremony in November 2018, when he came to power ousting Yameen.
  • India has also offered a $1.4-billion development assistance package to Maldives, which is being utilised in several projects.
  • 30 years ago, in 1988, an intervention by the Indian armed forces - codenamed 'Operation Cactus' - trounced an attempted coup on the island nation. On November 3, 1988, when mercenaries attacked the Maldives, India was the first to respond.
  • In 2004, when the tsunami hit Maldives, Indian naval ships were dispatched to assist rescue operation.
  • During the Male water crisis. Within four hours Indian Navy and Air Force vessels delivered water.

Way forward:

  • Past learning’s: Despite repeated calls for intervention, India firmly avoided military action against the Yameen regime. New Delhi thoughtfully coordinated its diplomatic response with other stakeholders, and put enormous pressure on Yameen to hold the presidential elections in a fair and transparent manner. This patience seems to have yielded a positive outcome as India finds itself in an advantageous situation now.
  • Cautious approach: India needs to remain careful if it wants to avoid a Nepal-like situation, where New Delhi’s perceived interference in Nepal’s internal affairs had turned the Nepali people against India. Having a lighter diplomatic footprint is the only way forward in the Maldives.’