India’s Ministry of External Affairs has commented on the Maldives’ latest diplomatic pivot, emphasising the sovereign right of nations to determine their international relations. This response comes as President Dr Mohamed Muizzu prepares to leave for China on his first state visit since assuming the presidency, marking a departure from the longstanding tradition of Maldivian presidents visiting India first.

Ministry spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal, addressing the media, stated, “This is a decision which Maldives has to take. We don’t have any comments on that. It is for them to decide where they go and how they go about their international relations.” 

This statement underlines India’s diplomatic position of non-intervention in the Maldives’ foreign policy choices while subtly acknowledging the changing dynamics in the region.

President Muizzu, accompanied by First Lady Sajidha Mohamed, is scheduled to visit China from January 7-12, following an invitation from Chinese President Xi Jinping. This visit is a continuation of President Muizzu’s break from tradition, having chosen Türkiye for his initial official visit in November.

These developments have been closely followed by Indian media, reflecting on the strategic implications for India. The Maldives’ increasing alignment with China, including participation in the China-sponsored Indian Ocean Region Forum on Development Cooperation and the establishment of an embassy in Ankara, is seen as a shift in the balance of power in the Indian Ocean. The region is a vital maritime trade route, and the Maldives’ strategic location makes it a key player in regional geopolitics.

India’s approach, as indicated by the External Affairs Ministry, suggests a cautious but non-interfering stance, respecting the Maldives’ sovereignty. This is in contrast to India’s historical relationship with the Maldives, which has been characterised by close bilateral ties and mutual strategic interests.

The evolving geopolitical landscape is further highlighted by Prime Minister Modi’s recent visit to Lakshadweep. This visit, part of the government’s ‘Vocal for Local’ campaign, aimed to promote domestic tourism and was seen as a counter-strategy to the Maldives’ increasing prominence as a tourist destination and its alignment with China.