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Pro-China leader Mohammed Muizzu elected as President of Maldives, raising Diplomatic uncertainty for India

New Delhi, October 02: On Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended his congratulations to the newly elected President of Maldives, Mohammed Muizzu. However, concerns loom over the potential shift in Maldives’ diplomatic alliances, given Muizzu’s previous pro-China stance.

While Muizzu’s inclination towards China is evident, some analysts doubt whether he will completely sideline his association with India. Nevertheless, with his victory in the Maldivian presidential poll, China’s influence in the region is expected to rise.

Muizzu secured 54% of the votes, defeating the incumbent President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, who was known for his India-friendly stance during his five-year tenure.

Solih’s close ties with India had played a significant role in India-Maldives relations.

In contrast, during the previous tenure of Mohammed Muizzu with the Progressive Party of Maldives, the nation secured substantial Chinese loans, and his government faced accusations of suppressing dissent.

While Solih’s presidency was marked by peace and prosperity, similar optimism cannot be guaranteed with Muizzu, given his affiliation with former President Abdulla Yameen.

Yameen, currently serving an 11-year jail sentence for corruption charges, was not only pro-China but also vocally anti-India. His influence persisted even from behind bars, with campaigns advocating “India out”.

With Muizzu’s rise to power, Yameen’s imminent release is anticipated. India has made significant investments in Maldives, contributing to infrastructure development and extending grants and loans under its Neighbourhood First policy.

However, Maldives has witnessed targeted hate attacks, including incidents involving Indian migrant workers and disruptions during last year’s Yoga Day celebrations.

India and Maldives have a long history of diplomatic relations, with India being among the first countries to recognize Maldives after its independence from British rule in 1965. The nations have developed close strategic and military ties over the years.

India launched Operation Cactus, a specialized and brief military operation to help the Maldivian government to avert a 1985 Coup attempt.

As the transition of power unfolds, there are hopes that the relationship between India and Maldives will remain stable. However, concerns persist that a shift in stance against India may occur, particularly with Yameen’s impending release.

Some voters who supported Muizzu’s candidacy expressed a desire to see a reduction in India’s military presence in the country, raising uncertainty about the future of India-Maldives Strategic relations. It will also have long-lasting impacts on the geopolitical competition in the Indian Ocean between two Asian Giants, India and China.

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