Maldivian President Ibrahim Solih (right) with Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid in New York (Photo: Twitter)
India has become a major election issue in the tiny Maldives that goes to elections in 2023. The ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has launched the 'Baakeenuvey' campaign to show its solidarity with India while the opposition has been running an intense non-stop India Out campaign for long.
The 'Baakeenuvey' campaign seeks to counter the anti-India campaign being run by opposition leader Abdulla Yameen of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).
If #India didn’t open a travel corridor for us during the Pandemic I don’t know how many loved ones would have suffered ,— Aishath Jennifer ⚖️ (@JenniferAishath) May 25, 2022
We ran out of medicines / life saving treatments Etc .. I will be forever grateful . #Baakeenuvey
The Times of Addu says that Baakeenuvey means, "Don’t Separate" while The Maldives Journal says it means "Do not be left behind". The main thrust of the campaign by the MDP is to not break ties with India, which has been a long-standing traditional ally of the Maldives.
Maldivian President Ibrahim Solih and Speaker Mohamed Nasheed are both considered pro-India. Nasheed even tweeted his support to the Baakeenuvey campaign, urging political leaders to not take actions that would alienate the country on the global stage and impact foreign relations.
Siyaasee veringe siyaasee beynumah takai Dhivehin baakeeve nikamethi vaane kankan nukurumah huriha siyaasee verin visnavan vaane. India aai dhekolhah hingaa campaign akee Dhivehinge thaaidhu oiy kameh noon kan saabith vanee ekamugai baiveri vaa meehun madhukamun #Baakeenuvey— Mohamed Nasheed (@MohamedNasheed) May 26, 2022
In his tweet in Dhivehi, Nasheed said that the entire anti-India campaign was politically motivated as it was supported by just one group. He added that the Maldivian people do not support the opposition campaign against India and have not shown much enthusiasm for it.
The supporters of the pro-India Baakeenuvey campaign have highlighted sustained Indian support to Maldives including sending the Covid-19 vaccines, medical tourism and people-centric multiple development projects rolled out through Line of Credit (LoC).
India has proven that #Covid19 will not force them to close their hearts to the Maldivian people. India provided US$250m. as a financial assistance to support the economic challenges arising from the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.#MaldivesIndia— Ibrahim Ali 🇲🇻 (@iburahimali) May 26, 2022
🇲🇻🤝 🇮🇳 #Baakeenuvey pic.twitter.com/Q45ucaHYO0
Dhananjay Tripathi, Associate Professor in the Department of International Relations at the South Asian University, told India Narrative: "The anti-India narrative has been largely sponsored by China. Opposition leader Yameen is creating trouble at the behest of Beijing as a lot of Chinese projects are in Maldives. The country is also burdened with big Chinese loans".
In solidarity with India, President Solih banned the anti-India movement officially in April, after which the police began peeling off anti-India posters. The Maldivian Police even removed a large 'India Out' banner from opposition leader Abdulla Yameen's residence.
A staunch China loyalist, Yameen allowed mega investments by the communist country during his presidency. He was released from jail in November 2021 after corruption cases against him were dropped over technical reasons. He initiated his anti-India campaign immediately after his release from prison.
Not all cases against Yameen have been closed. He continues to face cases of bribery and money laundering in allowing resort development in a nation famed for its scenic beaches and a robust tourist inflow.
Yameen has gone to the extent of saying that he will cancel all agreements with India if he is re-elected in the 2023 polls. His allegations against India range from interference in its internal affairs to impinging upon Maldivian sovereignty by stationing Indian military personnel in Maldives.
The Solih government has refuted all these allegations.
However, Speaker Nasheed, who is internationally well regarded for his liberal views and climate advocacy, recently told an international gathering in New Delhi that Chinese projects in Maldives have created huge debts for the government. He also said that joining the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was a mistake.
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