Amid a diplomatic dispute with India, Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu embarked on a state visit to China, accompanied by First Lady Sajidha Mohamed. The visit follows an invitation from Chinese President Xi Jinping and comes at a crucial time when the Maldives is entangled in a diplomatic row with India, a significant source of tourism and a close neighbor.
President Muizzu, known for his ‘Out India‘ campaign, recently suspended three deputy ministers from the government over derogatory comments they posted on social media in response to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s appeal for tourists to visit the Lakshadweep islands. Some viewed Modi’s visit as an attempt to divert tourists from the popular Maldives, raising tensions.
The controversial social media posts prompted a response from the Maldives Foreign Ministry, clarifying that such remarks are personal opinions and do not represent the government’s views. However, Indian celebrities, including cricketer Hardik Pandya and actor Akshay Kumar, expressed disappointment, leading to an online campaign promoting local tourism with hashtags like #ExploreIndianIslands.
The diplomatic tensions have strained relations between Maldives and India, traditionally close allies. India has played a significant role in the Maldivian economy through tourism, with Indian tourists being the largest group visiting the island nation. However, since President Muizzu assumed power, relations have cooled, fueled by perceptions of his pro-Chinese stance and promises to remove a small contingent of Indian military personnel stationed in the Maldives.
As the Maldives president undertakes a state visit to China, concerns rise over the implications for regional geopolitics and the evolving dynamics between the Maldives, India, and China.