Maldivian Foreign Minister makes maiden visit to India amid simmering tensions

Relations between the two countries have been strained under new government led by President Mohammad Muizzu

Maldivian Foreign Minister Moosa Zameer, right, will hold talks with his Indian counterpart Subrahmanyam Jaishankar on Thursday. Photo: @MoosaZameer / X
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The Maldives' Foreign Minister Moosa Zameer was expected in New Delhi on Wednesday for his maiden visit to India amid simmering diplomatic tensions over his country's moves to deepen ties with China.

Mr Zameer’s visit comes days after Indian military personnel left the Maldives at the government in Male's request.

India’s External Affairs Ministry said Mr Zameer would meet Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar on Thursday to discuss bilateral and regional issues of mutual interest.

New Delhi expects the visit will give “momentum to the bilateral co-operation between the two countries”, it said.

India has for decades considered Maldives, a chain of islands in the Indian Ocean known for azure waters, white sand beaches and luxury resorts, a strategic neighbour. But relations have been strained since President Mohamed Muizzu, a pro-China politician, was elected in November after a campaign marked by anti-India rhetoric.

Male has deepened ties with Beijing in recent years as China and India vie for influence in the region, particularly in the Indian Ocean, a key maritime route.

China is the Maldives' largest external creditor, accounting for about 20 per cent of its total public debt. The country owes China about $1.3 billion, according to the latest International Monetary Fund data.

Mr Muizzu chose China for his first foreign visit in January, breaking a tradition of Maldivian presidents making New Delhi their first port of call.

He met Chinese President Xi Jinping and signed 20 agreements, including on military equipment and training.

A spokeswoman for Mr Muizzu told reporters in Male that 51 Indian military personnel had left by Monday, days before the President's May 10 deadline for New Delhi to withdraw all of its troops. He had promised to remove “foreign military boots” from Maldivian soil if he came to power.

About 75 Indian troops were posted to the Maldives in 2020 to patrol maritime boundaries and run an emergency air evacuation service for its people.

Updated: May 08, 2024, 12:43 PM