Amid a flurry of activity on the foreign policy front between India and Maldives, the former president of the archipelago, Mohamed Nasheed, has requested Maldivian opposition parties to stop spreading “hatred” and “hostility” towards India.
Nasheed became the Maldives' first president to be elected democratically. He is also known internationally for his liberal and secular views. Nasheed had turned the global spotlight on the climate change threat faced by small island nations by organising the world's first cabinet meeting under the sea, also bringing attention to the country's pristine beaches.
Nasheed is also widely known as a friend of India.
The South Asia Monitor says: "Taking to Twitter on Friday, he (Nasheed) noted that there was hostile and disrespectful rhetoric being spread in the Maldives. He also advised opposition parties not to spread hatred against India".
Fuelled by some of the opposition parties, anti-Indian sentiment has been growing in the Maldives–as witnessed in the local media and also the social media. The opposition parties have been mounting an "India Out" campaign in the nation, making the Indian diplomatic community feel unsafe. The Indian High Commission even wrote a letter to the Maldivian Foreign Ministry highlighting personal attacks on Indian envoys in the local media.
The current Maldivian government, led by President Ibrahim Solih, is close to the Indian dispensation led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Even as India under its 'Neighbourhood First' policy is strengthening developmental and financial ties with Maldives, the archipelagic nation under Solih has restored the traditional "India First" policy after coming to power in 2018.
Solih and Nasheed have to face fire from orthodox elements in the opposition for distancing from China and restoring relations with India. Growing Islamic radicalisation in the nation has not helped the cause for India.
On May 6, Nasheed faced a targeted assassination attempt when an improvised explosive device (IED) placed on a bike exploded near his car. The IED was packed with ball bearings to cause maximum damage. After emergency care in Maldives, a critical Nasheed was rushed to Germany for treatment. Maldives arrested a number of suspects for the blast and Australian agencies joined in for investigations. Even as the investigations are on, the assassination attempt is suspected to be the handiwork of the opposition or the radical elements.
Dr Adil Rasheed, Research Fellow at the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi, and a well-known counter-terrorism expert says: "It would be more alarming if the people involved in the attempt on Nasheed's life are found to be regular homegrown radicals and not the non-State jihadist affiliates, lurking on the fringes of Maldivian society. The problem of violent extremism would then appear to be more serious and widespread".