Foreign Minister Moosa Zameer concluded his first official visit to India on Friday, marking a critical phase in diplomatic relations following a period of tensions heightened by President Dr Mohamed Muizzu’s apparent pro-China stance. In talks held with his Indian counterpart Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, Zameer emphasised the importance of nurturing bilateral ties based on mutual interests and reciprocal sensitivity.

This visit comes against a backdrop of strained relations since Muizzu assumed office last November, with his initial foreign visits to Turkey and China breaking from the traditional precedent of visiting India first. Further complicating matters, the Muizzu administration has faced criticism for derogatory comments made by deputy ministers against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the contentious decision to ask for the withdrawal of Indian military personnel stationed in the Maldives.

However, Zameer’s visit seems to be an effort to mend fences, stressing the long-standing economic and defence cooperation between the two nations. “Our relationships are built on a solid historical foundation, going back to when India was among the first to recognize our independence in 1965,” Zameer stated, highlighting ongoing discussions about economic cooperation and defence. The Foreign Minister also noted the significant role of Indian grants and developmental aid which have benefited the Maldivian people.

During the meeting, both sides addressed the recent removal of Indian military personnel, a demand of the Muizzu government that has now been complied with, with India replacing military personnel with technical teams to continue operating aviation platforms crucial for humanitarian and medical evacuation efforts.

External Affairs Minister Jaishankar reiterated India’s commitment to stability in the region through its ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy, underlining the mutual benefits of close cooperation. “Our partnership extends beyond immediate geopolitical concerns, encompassing significant economic and humanitarian dimensions,” Jaishankar expressed, adding that India has recently increased export quotas of essential commodities to the Maldives, reflecting a commitment to supporting the Maldivian economy.

The discussions also touched on regional security issues, with both parties keen on maintaining peace and stability in the Indian Ocean region. The talks paved the way for President Muizzu’s upcoming visit to India, expected to further the dialogue on these critical issues.

With Diplomats from both sides preparing for the President’s anticipated visit, the focus remains on balancing Maldives’ relations with both India and China, navigating a complex geopolitical landscape to secure the best outcomes for the Maldivian people.