Maldives’ Foreign Minister Moosa Zameer Likely to Visit India on May 10, Set to Confront Diplomatic Test

Foreign Affairs

New Delhi: For Moosa Zameer, Maldives’ new foreign minister, the likely visit to India around May 10 will certainly be one of his toughest assignments. He needs to instil confidence in the Indian leadership that the archipelago is still a trustworthy partner of India, especially after its president, Mohamed Muizzu, openly made pro-China overtures in the last few months, denting Male’s longstanding ties with New Delhi.

While his upcoming visit to India was reported by the media,  Zameer has been trying to build a conducive groundwork ahead of his visit. On  April 27,  he thanked India for its decision to increase the export of essential supplies to the island nation for the fiscal year 2024-25, amid diplomatic tensions between both countries. The Maldivian foreign minister took to X to express gratitude to India and also referred to his country’s ties with New Delhi as a ’longstanding friendship’.

Recently, India’s Directorate General of Foreign Trade announced in a notification that exports to Maldives have been authorised under the bilateral trade agreement for the year 2024-25. This decision holds particular significance as it comes amid a diplomatic standoff between the two nations, which was initiated by the Maldives following President Mohamed Muizzu’s tilt towards China after assuming office last November.

This agreement entails the export of essential commodities from India to Maldives including eggs, potatoes, onions, rice, wheat flour, sugar and lentils. Additionally, India will supply Maldives with stone aggregate and river sand. Previously, the export of these commodities was either restricted or prohibited.

Maldivian President Muizzu’s open pro-China stance and anti-India approach have posed significant challenges for New Delhi in maintaining friendly relations with Male. From his “India Out” campaign before the elections to permitting Chinese spy vessels to dock in his country, and even his ministers publicly insulting Prime Minister Narendra Modi and mocking Indians on social media, it’s been a consistent stream of hostility towards India emanating from the archipelago right under the nose of the highest office in the country.

Previously, Muizzu’s predecessor Ibrahim Mohamed Solih urged him to adopt a more open approach and engage in dialogue with neighbouring countries to address the financial difficulties facing the Maldives. Solih pointed out that while Maldives owes a substantial debt of MVR 18 billion to China, the amount owed to India is comparatively lower at MVR 8 billion, emphasising that Indian loans are not the root cause of the financial challenges.

Since assuming office, Muizzu’s criticisms of India during and after the presidential election campaign have strained relations between the two nations. He went as far as demanding the complete withdrawal of 88 Indian military personnel stationed at three aviation platforms used for humanitarian and medical evacuations in the Maldives by May 10.

Despite four months passing since the new government took office, President Muizzu has yet to visit India. Traditionally, the first overseas trip by Maldivian presidents has been to India, but Muizzu broke with tradition by visiting China in January for his inaugural state visit.