Indian Ocean nations must look after each other, China has no role: Former president Nasheed

12 May 2024 | 13:57
Former President Mohamed Nasheed

In a recent interview with Sri Lanka's The Morning News, former president and 19th speaker of parliament Mohamed Nasheed emphasized the importance of Indian Ocean countries collaborating for mutual safety and security, while cautioning against the involvement of external actors like China.

Nasheed's statements come amidst ongoing tensions between India and the Maldives, and the broader geopolitical dynamics in the region.

Nasheed expressed his view that India's presence in the region is crucial for the development and security of Indian Ocean nations.

He highlighted India's historical assistance during the 1988 coup attempt in the Maldives, where Indian intervention thwarted a destabilizing effort involving Sri Lankan rebels.

In 1988, there was a coup to overthrow the Maldivian Government. This involved Sri Lankan rebels from the People’s Liberation Organisation of Tamil Eelam (PLOTE) and was thwarted with Indian assistance through Operation Cactus. A few dozen can destabilise our small island nation. In my view, we are now more vulnerable than before, after distancing ourselves from India. 

Stated former president Nasheed

Nasheed underscored the vulnerability of smaller island nations and stressed the need for continued cooperation with India.

It was quite unnecessary. I do not think we should ask India to leave. India should remain, not quit

Nasheed stated, advocating for strengthened ties with India

He emphasized the longstanding cultural and historical connections between the Maldives and India, asserting that antagonizing India in favor of other actors is counterproductive.

Nasheed also criticized China's involvement in the region, particularly its approach to development projects that may lead to debt traps for smaller nations.

He pointed out the intentional inflation of project costs by China and cautioned against falling into such traps.

As for India, there is no choice but to live with our neighbor. It is often a love-hate relationship

Nasheed remarked

Nasheed remarked, acknowledging the complexities of the relationship between the Maldives and India.

He urged for constructive engagement and cooperation with India, rejecting xenophobic and ultranationalist sentiments that may strain foreign relations.

The backdrop of Nasheed's statements lies in recent tensions between India and the Maldives, sparked by India-out campaigns sparked by Indian military presence in Maldives and derogatory remarks against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi by Maldivian officials which eventually caused anti-Maldives campaigns in India.

However, Minister of Foreign Affairs Moosa Zameer announced in Saturday's press conference that relations have returned to normalcy, with plans for President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu's upcoming trip to India.

Nasheed's call for Indian Ocean nations to prioritize regional cooperation and his caution against external interference echo sentiments shared by many in the region.

As geopolitical dynamics continue to evolve, Nasheed's perspective highlights the importance of fostering relationships based on mutual respect and shared interests among Indian Ocean nations.