When it comes to neighborhood diplomacy, there is no easy day for India. All of India’s neighbors are wedged between the two Asian heavyweights, India and China, and their fondness for a country is largely based on the distribution of power.
With the rise to power of Ibrahim Solih in the Maldives in 2018, India breathed a sigh of relief. His predecessor Abdulla Yameen was strongly pro-China and anti-India. Over the past three years, India has reestablished its presence in the tiny archipelago, whose strategic position in the Indian Ocean is its greatest claim to prominence.
However, in 2020, rumors of ‘India Out’ began to emerge in the country, coinciding with Yameen’s acquittal by the courts in a money laundering case. The noise is mounting, on the ground as well as on social networks. A few weeks ago, there was even a demonstration against the presence of Indian soldiers in the country, forcing Defense Minister Mariya Didi to say that the Indian troops present were unarmed and posed no threat to the sovereignty of the country.
Most of those military personnel against whom the protests have started are involved in the maintenance and repair of advanced Dhruv light helicopters that India donated to the Maldives a decade ago.
Yameen had attempted to return the gift during her diet, but India prevailed.Rumors against India are politically motivated. Several political parties, including Solih’s coalition partners, issued statements condemning the “India Out” campaign. However, the grassroots rumbles cannot be ignored, especially from India.