Sack President, Summon Minister: Maldives Opposition Defends PM Modi

New Delhi, January 09, 2024

Maldives MP Ali Azim has called for the removal of President Mohamed Muizzu, accusing him of inaction and demanding “all necessary steps to remove President Muizzu from power.” The controversy centers around derogatory comments against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made by Maldivian ministers, sparking outrage and calls for action.

Azim, a member of The Democrats party, which split from the ruling coalition last year, has urged the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), the largest opposition party, to initiate a vote of no-confidence against President Muizzu. Meekail Naseem, another Member of Parliament, has requested Parliament to summon Foreign Minister Moosa Zameer over his alleged inaction regarding the offensive remarks against PM Modi.

The Maldives opposition is intensifying its criticism of President Muizzu ahead of general elections later this year. MDP leader and former Defence Minister Mariya Ahmed Didi criticized the ruling party for jeopardizing the “age-old relationship” with India, emphasizing that India has always been the Maldives’ priority.

Ahmed Mahloof, another MDP leader and former Youth and Sports Minister, warned of a potentially severe impact on the Maldivian economy if Indian tourists continue to boycott the country. The Maldives Association of Tourism Industry condemned the derogatory comments, highlighting the crucial role of Indian tourists in the post-Covid recovery.

Former Tourism Minister Abdulla Mausoom appealed to Indians to overlook the comments of any Maldivian minister and emphasized the significance of Indian travelers as a key source of income for the Maldives.

Several prominent Maldivian figures, including former President Ibrahim Solih, ex-Foreign Minister Abdullah Shahid, and former Deputy Speaker Eva Abdulla, have criticized the offensive remarks. Abdulla labeled the comments as “racist,” expressing understanding for Indians’ anger.

President Muizzu’s government, while acknowledging the comments as “unacceptable,” affirmed its commitment to constructive dialogue with all partners, especially neighboring countries. Three ministers, Malsha Shareef, Mariyam Shiuna, and Abdulla Mahzoom Majid, have been suspended in response to the controversy.

The diplomatic row began after Prime Minister Modi promoted tourism in Lakshadweep, triggering a #BoycottMaldives trend on social media, with Indian celebrities and cricketers contributing to the outcry. While India’s response has been measured, the Maldives envoy was summoned to New Delhi, and concerns about a potential impact on tourism and bilateral relations persist.

The strained ties between India and the Maldives have escalated since President Muizzu, perceived as pro-China, assumed office. During his ongoing state visit to China, he praised Beijing as a “valued ally.” The Chinese government has not issued a formal response, but state-run Global Times referred to a “friendly and cooperative relationship” with the Maldives.

As the situation unfolds, concerns grow over the potential ramifications for diplomatic ties and the Maldives’ tourism-dependent economy.

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