The Maldives has reaffirmed its commitment to the ‘India First’ policy in the wake of attempts by China to woo the Indian Ocean archipelago as part of Beijing’s ‘string of pearls’ strategy to encircle India.
‘’The Maldives practices and follows an Indian First policy when it comes to security and peace in the Indian Ocean,’’ Maldives Ambassador to India Ahmed Mohamed said in an interview to The Statesman when his attention was drawn to the fact that China was vigorously courting his country by making large-scale investments in various sectors there. “The relationship we have with India has a special dimension to it. It is more interlinked. It is more engaging,’’ he said.
Mohamed said the Maldives would like to be engaged with all its bilateral partners and enjoy cordial and friendly relations with all of them. India, the envoy said, was in a much better position than others to provide concessional financing for the developing needs of the Maldives and has much wider scope and space to further enhance and strengthen the special relationship.
‘’It’s certainly not a fact. I would categorically deny that,’’ Mohamed said when asked if anti-India sentiments had been rising in his Indian Ocean nation, adding ‘’but when the voices of disgruntled politicians are perceived or portrayed as the reality, then such a question is quite possible.’’
When it was pointed out that the Maldives had been witnessing a prolonged period of political uncertainty, he regretted that despite many calls by the government for dialogue, the opposition had refused to be engaged. ‘’But I would not call this to be an uncertain situation. It is not only now, but there have been difficult periods in the past as well. But we have found solutions to overcome them.’’
Mohamed said Male had been telling the international community and other bilateral partners that all parties needed to participate in a national dialogue. ‘’The solution also needs to be home-grown. What has worked in one country may not necessarily be as effective in another country.’’
He said if any country wanted to help the Maldives, it should not offer prescriptive solutions but be engaged by holding Male’s hands and helping the country strengthen its democratic institutions. ’’But if a segment of both the domestic and international community continues to rock the boat, the time it takes to reach a calm and safer harbour will be longer.’’
The Maldivian envoy acknowledged that SAARC has had difficulties in achieving its intended goals since the inception of the organisation. ‘’The Maldives strongly believes that SAARC member states must work towards the common good of all. The Maldives will remain committed to work with all our South Asian neighbours towards the greater good of all,’’ he said.
He thanked India and its people for providing a ‘very special gift’ to the South Asian region by launching the South Asian satellite. ‘’We believe that the South Asian satellite will help improve the lives of the people of South Asia.’’