In an exclusive interview with the Times of India, Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu emphasized the need for a “Pro-Maldives” foreign policy, balancing regional alliances and safeguarding the nation’s democratic values. The president discussed crucial issues ranging from geopolitical rivalries, maritime cooperation with India, to the presence of foreign military personnel in the Maldives.
Geopolitical Dynamics and Proactive Diplomacy
President Muizzu acknowledged the Maldives’ strategic location in the Indian Ocean, emphasizing its significance in global dynamics. He expressed concerns about the potential exploitation of the country’s geopolitical position by external powers. The president underlined the importance of securing Sea Lines of Communication for the stability and prosperity of the Maldives and the wider Indian Ocean region.
He highlighted his commitment to avoiding entanglement in geopolitical rivalries, asserting that the Maldives aims to be an active partner in discussions and discourse on Indian Ocean security. President Muizzu stressed the necessity for the country to command respect for its national sovereignty and independence to play a credible role in upholding the rules-based international order.
India-Maldives Relations: India First Policy
Responding to questions about the role of India in the Maldives’ development objectives and maritime security, President Muizzu reiterated the historical ties and geographical proximity between the two nations. He emphasized the growing relationship in trade, commerce, investment, and tourism, with India being the top tourist-sending destination to the Maldives in 2023.
President Muizzu highlighted the key role India plays in supporting the operational readiness of the Maldives National Defence Force. He assured that defense cooperation is based on mutual respect and trust, asserting that India’s relationship with the Maldives is guided by these principles.
Pro-Maldives Foreign Policy and Alleged Pro-China Leanings
In response to allegations of being a pro-China leader, President Muizzu clarified that his government would pursue a “Pro-Maldives” policy. He emphasized aligning national interests with global public interests, focusing on peace, security, and inclusive development. The president rejected the notion of being pro- or anti-any country, stressing the importance of increasing economic and institutional resilience to gain respect in the regional and global political arena.
Concerns over Indian Military Presence
President Muizzu addressed concerns over the presence of Indian military personnel in the Maldives, stating that the issue is against the democratic will of the Maldivian people. He affirmed his belief in resolving the matter through diplomatic dialogue, expressing confidence in India’s respect for the democratic mandate. The president acknowledged the depth of bilateral relations between the two countries, stating that they can continue without a permanent military presence in the Maldives.
He clarified the decision not to renew the agreement for hydrographic surveys by the Indian Navy, stating that the goal was to build national capacity, and assistance would continue to be sought as needed.
President Muizzu concluded the interview by expressing optimism about the future of democracy in the Maldives and the resolution of military presence issues through diplomatic channels. The interview sheds light on the delicate balance the Maldives seeks to maintain in its foreign relations amid heightened geopolitical tensions in the region.