Indo - Seychelles, Mauritius and Maldives Relations

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Maldives: Back home, Nasheed meets Solih, helps clear clouds on India pact​

Back home after five months, Maldives Parliament Speaker Mohammed Nasheed met with President Ibrahim Solih on Sunday, 24 October, days after declaring that he was ‘ready to work’ with his long-time. They met at the President’s Office, and discussed national economy, environment, and governance-system—which Nasheed wants changed from the present presidential form to a parliamentary scheme.

Earlier, at his maiden in-person news conference in Malé, Nasheed had said that before taking a decision on the transition to a parliamentary scheme, he would ‘dialogue’ with Solih , who had received his old friend and party boss, when the former flew in from London via Dubai. Now that he has held at least one round of discussions with Solih, Nasheed’s next move will be keenly watched.
Referring to the constitutionally-mandated ‘national referendum’ for such transition, Solih promised to act according to people’s wishes, which a decade ago had favoured the presidential form.

While overseas, where he underwent follow-up treatment for injuries sustained in a targeted bomb-blast in Malé on 6 May, Nasheed declared, ‘not to politically align’ with Solih, and demanded an early transition from presidential governance. Referring to the constitutionally-mandated ‘national referendum’ for such transition, Solih promised to act according to people’s wishes, which a decade ago had favoured the presidential form.

Factionalism in the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) had demoralised party supporters and cadres alike, and was reflected in the low turn-outs in the nation-wide local government elections (LGE) and the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) organisational polls, held in April and September, respectively. If the more recent reconciliation mood prevails, the fear of a vertical-split following the mutually-contested results of the organisational polls may have evaporated, at least for now.

Staying in touch

Independent of Nasheed’s position on continuing with or rescheduling his transition demand, a clearer picture on mainstay MDP politics will emerge (only) when he clarifies his position on party primaries for choosing the 2023 presidential candidate. The Solih camp feels that the incumbent should have automatic nomination, and cite a contested provision in the party’s amended bye-laws. Solih too has not announced his decision in the matter, leading to speculative arguments, all round.

Both President Solih and Speaker Nasheed are attending the UN Climate Change Conference (31 Oct-12 Nov) at Glasgow in the UK. En route, Solih visited the Dubai Expo, which Nasheed attended during his homeward trip. Within the country, Solih has been undertaking extensive tours of the islands, to review developmental projects and attend other public events in his capacity as President—and stay in touch with constituents and cadres alike.

Avoidable embarrassment

The seeming reproachment within the MDP leader of the ruling coalition has the potential to upset the party’s three allies in what still is a coalition government. They had contributed to Solih’s unprecedented first-round victory in the elections of2018, and have since reiterated their independent support for the presidential system.

In context, the timing of the leak of a fortnight-old President’s Office missive, removing the Maldives Police Service (MPS) from the care of the Home Ministry, headed by Imran Abdulla, leader of the Adhalaath Party (AP) ally, had led to avoidable multiple embarrassments to the Solih leadership as none else earlier. In the Parliament, Speaker Nasheed had clarified that under the new Act, the Home Ministry would now be in charge of policymaking.

Solih has been undertaking extensive tours of the islands, to review developmental projects and attend other public events in his capacity as President—and stay in touch with constituents and cadres alike.

A new twist was added when the Home Ministry ‘disappeared’ from the website of the President’s Office. However, Minister Imran saved the day for the coalition when he sent out what some described as a ‘meaningful tweet’ that there will be ‘obstructions when trying better things’—when implementing the new Police Act). After media analysts and Opposition politicians like former Home Minister and presidential aspirant Umar Naseer pointed out that the Constitution mandated ministerial supervision of individual departments, Solih restored the original scheme.

Indian defence pact ‘clean’

Chairing the Parliament session after 150 days, Speaker Nasheed reiterated his earlier ruling that the government’s ‘Uthuru Thilafalhu (UTF) agreement’ with India for constructing a ‘naval harbour’ for the Maldivian defence forces was ‘not secretive’ and also referred to the Parliament earlier asking the defence ministry for a copy of the same. Independently, the Information Commissioner has also directed the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) to disclose the agreement to a petitioner-media house.

Clearing all suspicions and criticisms, the government promptly presented the agreement to the Parliament’s Committee on National Security, popularly known as the ‘241 Committee’, for members to read, under rules of secrecy. Defence Minister Mariya Didi and team was present to offer clarifications. “There is nothing in the agreement that would directly impact on the sovereignty of Maldives,” Committee Chair, Mohamed Aslam, observed at the end of the panel session.

When the Opposition protested to the signing of the agreement during Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar in February, the Solih government had dismissed as ‘fake’, what Umar Naseer had distributed then. It is not known if the government would also act on the Information Commissioner’s directive, likewise. As coincidence would have it, addressing a defence conclave in New Delhi, Minister Mariya Didi said that bilateral relations were ‘stronger than ever’, and India had always been the first responder during every crisis.

Clearing all suspicions and criticisms, the government promptly presented the agreement to the Parliament’s Committee on National Security, popularly known as the ‘241 Committee’, for members to read, under rules of secrecy.

As if on cue, a day before the committee meeting, the Opposition held a rally in Malé, re-christened ‘India Military Out’, as if to save face, and indicating that they may be protesting only against what they claimed to be Indian ‘military presence’ in the country—and not necessarily against Indian developmental presence, as was their ‘cause’ earlier. This possibly owes to the Opposition’s belated realisation about popular support for India, which has been walking the proverbial extra mile to meet the needs and concerns of Maldives, at every turn of the COVID-19 pandemic.

India trains pilots

In an otherwise unrelated development but with implications for domestic politics, outgoing Indian High Commissioner Sunjay Sudhir has announced that three pilots of the Maldivian National Defence Force (MNDF) have returned after completing training on Dornier aircraft, the like of which New Delhi had gifted Maldives. Clarifying that India was also training the required technical staff, the High Commissioner said that the multiple training slots offered to the MNDF this year included 42 for aviation.

Given the periodicity of the Opposition’s ‘India Out’ campaign targeting almost every India-funded installation, including Maldives’s single-largest Thilamalé sea-bridge, and owing to the fact that it has failed to attract public support, Amb Sudhir reiterated that the India-funded police academy in southern Addu is ‘not an Indian asset’. The Maldives police would decide on its usage once handed over in the coming weeks, he said.

In his closing weeks as High Commissioner, Amb Sudhir also signed an MoU with Maldives’ Transport Minister Aishath Nahula, on regional maritime security and safety through long-range identification and tracking of ships, thus helping the host-nation to fulfil its obligations to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) without having to establish its own disaster centre. In addition, Maldives will receive Indian assistance for human resource capacity-building.

Tourism, the mainstay of Maldivian economy, was badly hurt after the pandemic hit, and Indians now account for every fourth tourist in the country.

In a series of interviews to the local media, Sudhir denied that India had slowed down issuance of visas to Maldivians. Unlike as portrayed in the social media, for ‘Maldives there is a facility that is much higher than e-visa. Which is no-visa’, Sudhir said. The misunderstanding may be due to the locals continuing to crowd the Indian High Commission for visas as in the past, despite the new system, involving prior alert on the date and time-slot for the purpose.

A ‘miniscule handful is trying to spread hatred towards India’ and a few media outlets which have ‘made it their profession’ to speak ill of India, do not represent the true emotions of Maldivians, the High Commissioner declared. As he pointed out, ‘India has always been the first responder in times of crises… The pool of goodwill … in Maldives towards India, is just immense’.

High tourist footfall

As coincidence would have it, the Maldivian government has announced how the larger northern neighbour remained the top source-market after the nation opened up for foreign tourists on 15 July last year. Tourism, the mainstay of Maldivian economy, was badly hurt after the pandemic hit, and Indians now account for every fourth tourist in the country.

In the midst of speculative reports that Indian tourists could go West, now that the US has opened up to Indians, post-pandemic, High Commissioner Sudhir, held a series of round-table discussions with local trade, tour operators, travel agents and writers, and also high-level officials from Out-bound Travel Market (OTM) Mumbai, to promote Maldives in India, more intensily.

Buttressing the High Commissioner’s arguments, though from a totally different perspective,Maldivian Finance Minister, Ibrahim Ameer pointed out in a tweet, how the erstwhile Yameen government’s termination of the Indian infra major, GMR Group’s construction-cum-concession contract for the Malé airport had cost the nation a whopping US $13 billion in lost profits. Had the airport been completed in 2014 as planned, the nation would have received a record 6.7-million tourists before COVID-19, and the GDP would have stood US $10 billion by 2020 instead of the current US$5 billion.
 
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RISING SUN

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Maldives rejects ‘India Out’ campaign, describes India as ‘closest ally’​

The Maldives government on Wednesday rejected what it said were attempts to spread “false information” through social media using the “India Out” slogan, and described India as the country’s “closest ally and trusted neighbour”.


The Maldives from above

Shimmering turquoise water, sailing boats and reefs: the island world of the Maldives is a dream destination for many vacationers. Our viewer Yong Tan sent off his drone, and collected impressive images.


The government in Male issued a statement in response to a fresh campaign in the media and social media that alleged cooperation between the governments of the two countries is undermining the national security and sovereignty of the Maldives.

The statement said the strong relationship between the Maldives and India is based on shared historical and cultural ties and matched by dynamic people-to-people contacts. “India has always been the Maldives’ closest ally and trusted neighbour, extending constant and consistent support to the people of Maldives on all fronts,” it said.

Though the statement did not name anybody, it is believed opposition parties and a section of the media in the Maldives have been engaged in renewed efforts to whip up anti-India sentiments. The “India Out” slogan was first used on social media platforms last year.

Recent media reports, especially in Dhiyares and its sister newspaper The Maldives Journal, have sought to create an impression that India is seeking to establish a military presence in the Maldives through ongoing security cooperation.

The Maldives government’s statement coincided with the new Indian high commissioner, Munu Mahawar, presenting his credentials to President Ibrahim Solih at an official ceremony. Solih “highlighted that the Maldives and India share a special relationship and that no third nation can take India’s place”, according to a readout from the president’s office.



Solih and the Indian envoy spoke about strengthening bilateral relations, especially in security cooperation, socio-economic development and climate change.

The Maldives government’s statement said cooperation and support provided by India, specifically on issues of maritime security, is “aimed at strengthening the strategic partnership between the two countries and to ensure the safety and stability of the Indian Ocean region”.

It added: “Support provided by India, on areas such as search and rescue capabilities, casualty evacuation, coastal surveillance, and maritime reconnaissance, directly benefit the Maldivian people. The Government of Maldives has also established partnerships with other countries in similar areas of cooperation, to enhance technical and strategic capacities.”

Maldives defence minister Mariya Didi recently told Raajje TV that none of the Indian military personnel present on Maldivian soil “carry weapons” and their presence poses no risk to national sovereignty.


The statement further noted that no country could tackle threats such as trans-border terrorism, piracy and narco-trafficking and non-traditional challenges such as climate change, cyber security and human trafficking without the support and cooperation of regional and international partners.

The Maldives government also reiterated its gratitude for the assistance provided by India over the years, including during the 1988 mercenary attack on the country, the 2004 Asian tsunami, the 2015 Male water crisis and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Describing the false allegations regarding ties with India as misguided and unsubstantiated, the Maldives government these were the views of a “small group of individuals with the objective of tarnishing the country’s long-standing cordial ties with India”. The government urged all parties to refrain from spreading false information that undermines relations with neighbours, and called on media outlets to commit to professional standards of journalism in reporting such information.
 

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Maldives: India first or India out?​

Recent protests in Maldives against India’s influence in the country calling for “Indian military out” has led the Maldives government to respond by reiterating its “India First” policy. This has highlighted the difficulties that both countries face in building a stable strategic partnership while also addressing popular sensitivities. It’s not something that India has been good at elsewhere in the neighbourhood.

Maldives is a small island state located right in the centre of the Indian Ocean. Despite a population of only 500,000, its location, astride the main sea lanes of the Indian Ocean, gives it considerable strategic significance. For centuries big powers have sought to build influence there and deny its use to rivals.

Maldives has come to international attention in recent years as part of growing rivalry between India and China. The former president Abdulla Yameen, who was seen by many as dangerously close to China, was ousted in an electoral landslide in 2018. The new government under President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih proclaimed an “India First” policy, which is now being tested as he seeks to reconcile India’s growing presence against a tradition in Maldives of fierce independence.

The “India out” protests last month in the capital Malé shouldn’t be taken too seriously in themselves. They involved the usual crowd of Yameen supporters that regularly demonstrate in the streets for the release of the former president from house arrest (he was convicted of money laundering in 2019). The Maldives government responded sharply by describing India as the country’s “closest ally and trusted neighbour”. But protests also reflect widespread sensitivities among the Maldives community that do need to be addressed.

If nothing else, Solih’s “India First” policy reflects simple geographic reality. India has long been Maldives’ closest friend and protector. Indeed, many Indian analysts effectively see Maldives as part of an Indian sphere of influence in South Asia where rivals should not tread. More recently, India has taken a somewhat more positive approach in demonstrating its role as a “net security provider”, emphasising the benefits that it can provide to smaller countries.

But the relationship between one of the largest countries in the world and one of the smallest also inevitably brings sensitivities. India’s fragile ties with neighbours such as Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal show that these concerns are not always well handled.

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India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi (left) with Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih in Male in 2019 (STR/AFP via Getty Images)
Maldives people are realistic about their place in the world, but they are also proud of their independence and their centuries-long history as a country. Unlike much larger countries around the region, including India, they were never colonised by Britain. Instead, in 1887, Maldives Sultan Muhammad Mueenuddeen II saw the writing on the wall and offered a protectorate agreement with Britain in which Maldives could retain full political autonomy while deferring to London on foreign affairs.

This pragmatic decision meant that no British flag ever flew over Malé and no British governor or resident was ever installed in the capital. But in response to the Japanese threat in 1941, Britain was permitted to establish naval and air base at Addu Atoll in the far south of the archipelago.
Maldives’ pragmatism in working with big powers while also guarding its autonomy is key to understanding its approach to the world.

The failure to celebrate the help that the Indian military provides to Maldives communities may be a lost opportunity.

Since 2018, India has significantly stepped up its aid to Maldives in response to concerns about China’s growing influence under the previous government. This has included considerable fiscal support to help Maldives deal with its huge debts to China. A massive Indian-funded infrastructure project has been announced that would include new bridges linking the crowded capital to three neighbouring islands. There are also plans for India to help construct a new coast guard base near Malé.

New Delhi is also developing its presence in Addu in the south, including constructing a new police academy and plans to open an Indian consulate there.

One of the most controversial elements of India’s role involves contingents from the Indian Navy and Coast Guard in Addu as well as on islands in the centre and north of the country. They are there to maintain and operate a Dornier twin-engined aircraft and two helicopters, all under the direction Maldives National Defence Force, which does not operate its own aircraft.

Opposition leaders say that the presence of a foreign military undermines Maldives’ sovereignty. Indeed, in the last months of his rule in 2018, Yameen’s government tried to whip up nationalist sentiment by expelling the Indian contingents. They declined requests to leave.

Both the Maldives and Indian governments are tight-lipped about the arrangement out of concerns about nationalist sentiments. But this has created an information gap. Indeed, few Maldivians are aware of what they actually do.

It is in fact a good news story. The main role of the Indian-operated aircraft is to undertake medical evacuations from isolated communities on some 200 inhabited islands, most of which lack access to proper medical facilities – in some ways like Australia’s Flying Doctor Service. The aircraft are also tasked to patrol the waters of Maldives’ huge exclusive economic zone against foreign illegal fishing boats, a major political issue for a country that eats tuna for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The failure to celebrate the help that the Indian military provides to Maldives communities may be a lost opportunity. Indeed, with the Indian presence in Maldives only likely to grow in coming years, a more active approach will be needed. History demonstrates that Maldives people can be pragmatic about the need to partner with big powers. But they also need to understand the benefits they get.

The author has recently returned from a lengthy assignment in Maldives with funding from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. This article is part of a two-year project being undertaken by the National Security College on the Indian Ocean, with the support of the Department of Defence.
 

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Maldives: Anomalies in Yameen’s anti-India bias​

The quick and silent acceptance of the defence and security agreements with the US is indicative of the anti-India bias that is being harboured by the Yameen camp.



Maldives, Yameen, MNDF, defence, US–Maldives, security, COVID-19 lockdowns, US, Indo-Pacific, IOR, India–China border clashes, ACSA,

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Addressing a special ceremony at the Integrated Headquarters of the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) in capital Malé, where she signed an agreement with the US’ Montana National Guard Partnership Program, Maldivian defence minister Mariya Didi said that “by enrolling in this programme, we (the President Solih administration) are reiterating our commitment to the deepening of the US–Maldives defence and security relationship, which has grown tremendously over the past three years,”. The three-year reference is to the time when the minister travelled quietly to the US at the height of the COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions, and signed the “Framework for US Department of Defense-Maldives Ministry of Defence Defense and Security Relationship”, in September 2020.

At the more recent ceremony, minister Mariya said that the enrolment of Maldives in such a prestigious programme as one of the solid outcomes of the earlier pact, which, she explained, ‘formalised the way forward in cementing bilateral defence and security cooperation’. The US partnership will go a long way in ‘building the capacity and readiness of the Maldivian defence sector to meet the challenges of today’, she added.

The minister clarified that the programme was tailored to meet the unique requirements of Maldives’ defence and security landscape, by facilitating engagements in key areas such as maritime domain awareness, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, cyber defence, and communication security, aviation security operations, leadership development, military medical and engineer activities, operational logistics, and chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, environmental defence and response.
Indian strategic analysts, in particular, contextualised the agreement to the India–China border clashes, beginning with the illegal Chinese occupation of Indian territory and the brutal massacre of 20 Indian soldiers.

Short of preparing the MNDF to fight a formal war, the US training programme, by bilateral admission, is exhaustive and all-inclusive. The minister herself asserted that the ‘US partnership would go a long way in ‘building the capacity and readiness of the Maldivian defence sector to meet the challenges of today’. It was all in line with what minister Mariya had said while signing the 2020 agreement. She had said that “defence and security relationship will add immense value to the excellent US–Maldives partnership defined by shared principles and interests in peace and security of the Indo-Pacific and the IOR amid rising threats like piracy and terrorism.”

By referring to the Indo-Pacific, coined by the US with regard to its delayed post-Cold War strategic shift from the Atlantic, the 2020 agreement and all that follows should be of concern to China, with its geostrategic agenda for the IOR region abutting Maldives, Sri Lanka, and by extension, its historic Indian adversary. Indian strategic analysts, in particular, contextualised the agreement to the India–China border clashes, beginning with the illegal Chinese occupation of Indian territory and the brutal massacre of 20 Indian soldiers.

Stupefying silence

Nearer home, former President Abdulla Yameen, who is opposed to the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), has been highly critical of the Indian neighbour since his days in office (2013–18). He has also launched a nation-wide ‘India Out’ and/or ‘India Military Out’ campaign, has surprised admirers and opponents alike, with his stupefying silence over the Solih government’s defence and security agreements with the US, the only other nation with which Maldives has such pacts. It’s not about Maldives’ sovereign freedom to engage with whichever nation in whatever ways it wanted.

This is not the first time that the Yameen camp has reacted this way. In his time, the government of the nation’s first democracy President Mohammed ‘Anni’ Nasheed (2008–12) signed the first-ever overseas defence cooperation pact, the US’ Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA). Later, after the Yameen camp became the political face of what was touted as (Islamic) religious NGOs’ anti-Nasheed protest, leading to the latter’s vice-president, Mohammed Waheed Hassan Manik succeeding him to complete the remainder (2012–13) of the five-year term, there were talks of another America-centric defence cooperation agreement.

The proposed pact supposedly involved what could be termed as the upgradation of the American ACSA into SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement), which provided for non-application of domestic laws to American soldiers on ‘rest and recuperation’ (R&R) trips and freedom for them to carry personal weapons on Maldivian territory. There were also allegations about Waheed’s Maldives handing over island-territory for the US to set up a military base. Local media leaks about both projects forced the Waheed government to distance itself from the proposal. Then Attorney-General Aishath Bhisham also clarified that Maldivian territory cannot be transferred thus to other nations without a parliamentary enactment.
The proposed pact supposedly involved what could be termed as the upgradation of the American ACSA into SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement), which provided for non-application of domestic laws to American soldiers on ‘rest and recuperation’ (R&R) trips and freedom for them to carry personal weapons on Maldivian territory.

It’s noticeable that in all these cases, too, Yameen did not raise his voice over the US deals, real and speculated. If this was Yameen’s disposition to US-centric defence deals, as against those involving the immediate Indian neighbour, he also caused his PPM-PNC combine to issue a statement, welcoming the stop-over visit of outgoing US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, when he held substantive bilateral discussions with Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid. It happened when Yameen was still in prison, pending the Supreme Court acquitting him for the multi-million-dollar ‘money laundering case’.

One-sided demand

The Yameen camp’s criticism of India is centred on the bilateral agreement for India to fund and develop an exclusively Maldivian Coast Guard base on Uthuru Thila Falhu (UTF) island. As Maldivian officials, including minister Mariya, have explained, there were no secret clauses, nor was there any provision for Indian military personnel taking possession of the base, when built. Instead, it was a part of the local government’s decision to strengthen each arm of its military, which now serve under the common identity, as the ‘Maldivian National Defence Force’ (MNDF).

While repeatedly demanding presenting sensitive security and defence cooperation agreements to parliamentary debate and public scrutiny, the Yameen camp forced the Solih government to show the UTF agreement to members of the Parliament’s ‘241’ National Security Committee. Once dust had settled over what the PPM-PNC members of the parliamentary panel did not find in the UTF pact, the Yameen camp began demanding full disclosure to full Parliament, and by extension, the nation at large. However, not once have they sought even half the details on any of the defence cooperation agreements signed with the US, the only other nation with which Maldives has any such arrangement thus far. It was a clear indication that the Yameen camp’s concern for national security were one-sided and only India-centric, and not as ‘nationalist’ as they want Maldives and Maldivians to believe.

More importantly, as President (2013-18), the Yameen government signed a series of trade and development agreements with China, incurring huge debts that future governments would have to repay. Given the continuing Sri Lankan experience in the matter at present, the development man aspiring to be Maldives’ Lee Kuan Yew would have been expected to take the nation into confidence through the Parliament, on what essentially were only economic matters. However, Yameen was secretive of the island-allocation for resort development when it came to Chinese interests, and followed it up with an after-thought of a Parliament session, that too only for a few hours, to clear the Maldives–China FTA, two days before his China visit, which itself was kept a top secret until almost the last minute. If the FTA has not come into force, it is because of the change of government in Malé.
The Yameen government also kept up pressure on India by asking to take back the two helicopters that New Delhi had gifted earlier, along with Indian pilots and technical personnel, for humanitarian-use, particularly for air-lifting emergency patients in far-away islands.

Personal bias It looks as if, Yameen’s anti-India politics flows from a personal bias, centred on what his camp considered as New Delhi’s continued favouritism to his domestic political opponents. Days before the 2013 presidential polls that he won in the midst of multiple controversies over alleged judicial bias in his favour, Yameen, along with another candidate, Gasim Ibrahim of the Jumhooree Party (JP), issued a joint statement that Indian tech personnel assisting the Maldivian Election Commission were set to rig the outcome in favour of MDP’s Nasheed. The Yameen camp had also taken exception to India seeking and obtaining a ‘level-playing field’ for Nasheed to be able to contest the election, when he was facing an ‘abduction case’, with possible conviction causing electoral disqualification.

Yameen’s prejudice against India took the form of his cash-strapped government paying a high US$ 271-million compensation to the Indian infra major, GMR Group, after the predecessor Waheed government had cancelled the Malé airport construction-cum-concession work, allotted by the Nasheed dispensation earlier. Later, he did not take kindly to India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), in an unprecedented manner, commenting on the ‘internal affairs’ of a friendly nation, and criticise his decisions, including the proclamation of Emergency, after a five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court ordered freedom for Nasheed, who had obtained political asylum in the UK, where he had travelled as a prisoner, sentenced by a Maldivian court. He also did not take kindly to India sending close aide and PPM parliamentary group leader, Ahmed Nihan, back when the landed in Chennai, for his mother’s medical treatment.

Throughout, the Yameen government also kept up pressure on India by asking to take back the two helicopters that New Delhi had gifted earlier, along with Indian pilots and technical personnel, for humanitarian-use, particularly for air-lifting emergency patients in far-away islands. It did not work out that way and the successor Solih government has continued with the use of Indian choppers, pilots, and technical personnel, after repeated clarifications and assurances that they operated exclusively on the instructions and directions of the MNDF, which was the coordinating authority.

This may be behind the Yameen camp shifting gears between their ‘India Out’ and ‘India Military Out’ calls, as they too seem unsure about public support for this cause as against their multiple charges against the incumbent government, which they are not as eager to press. It starts with their party cadres, as they are also alive to India’s continued supply of every daily-use item, starting with rice, sugar, and medicines for years, including those years when India itself was facing shortages having problems convincing themselves that they did not want India or did not owe anything to India.
 

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Mauritius PM Pravind Jugnauth to arrive in India today for 8-day visit​

Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth accompanied by his spouse Kobita Jugnauth and a high-level delegation will arrive in India for an eight-day visit starting Sunday.

The Mauritius Premier is arriving in India on the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

During his visit, Jugnauth will participate in the Ground-Breaking Ceremony of the WHO-Global Centre for Traditional Medicine in Jamnagar next Tuesday as well as in the Global Ayush Investment and Innovation Summit in Gandhinagar on Wednesday, along with PM Modi, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said.

The Mauritius PM will also pay a visit to Varanasi apart from his official engagements in Gujarat and New Delhi.

"India and Mauritius enjoy uniquely close ties, bound by shared history, culture, and heritage. The upcoming visit will further strengthen the vibrant bilateral ties," MEA said.

Last week, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar met Secretary to the Cabinet of Mauritius NK Ballah in New Delhi and said the bilateral cooperation between the two countries was "progressing from strength to strength".

Earlier in January, PM Modi and Prime Minister of Mauritius Pravind Kumar Jugnauth had jointly inaugurated the India-assisted social housing units project in Mauritius virtually. They also launched the Civil Service College and 8 MW Solar PV Farm project in Mauritius that is being undertaken under India's development support.