The Democrats, on the heels of a resolution introduced by fellow party Member of Parliament (MP) for North Galolhu, Eva Abdulla, have made a push for a more open and inclusive foreign policy. During debate on the motion, the party leader and MP for West Henveiru, Hassan Latheef, stressed the importance of maintaining mature and peaceful relationships with neighbours, while MP for North Maafannu, Imthiyaz Fahumy, opted for a direct approach, warning against alienating one of the region’s largest democracies, which could strain ties with other major nations.

The North Galolhu MP’s motion has the stated intention of strengthening foreign policy by encouraging a more sustainable policy push.

Latheef said the damage caused by the deterioration of relations between the Maldives and India was already evident.

“India has been the largest tourist destination in the past three years, with 48,000 visitors by the beginning of March 2023, but only 27,000 during the same period this year,” Latheef noted despite overall visitor figures being on the rise.

“A huge amount has fallen in terms of the proportion coming from that country,” he added.

The West Henveiru MP, quoting tourism industry sources, said the decline in the number of tourists has also caused huge financial losses in the millions of dollars.

“When foreign policy is determined, we have to think about our economy. Otherwise, the damage to Maldives could be huge. I am saying this because many tourism experts agree,” Latheef argued.

While a president is elected for five years, one should consider long-term implications of foreign policy and changing foreign policy should be undertaken wisely, he said.

Meanwhile, Fahumy used his floor time during the debate to chastise the current administration for insulting neighbouring India and acting in a way that disrupts the long-standing relationship with the country.

The clash with one of the most powerful neighbouring democracies has weakened the Maldives’ relations across the world, Fahumy said.

The North Maafannu MP stated that every Maldivian would know exactly what will happen if the Maldives were in trouble with the countries which were best placed to quickly deploy aid to the nation in times of need. It will also affect livelihoods and businesses, he added.

“If we create hostility in the name of Maldivians between the people and governments of that country [India], it will certainly harm our small country,” he asserted.

Therefore, although the Constitution stipulates that foreign policy is the responsibility of the president, the foreign policy should only be changed after thinking deeply about the surrounding circumstances, Fahumy emphasised.

We must strengthen our relations with the countries of the world to ensure our security and safety and the country’s security and safety should be maintained with special consideration towards nations with which we have close ties and a culture of assistance since time immemorial, he reiterated.

“We have to protect our country from security risks. We have to respect the security agreements between each other. We can only trust intelligence sharing agreements if our bilateral relations are what they are… I don’t think things should be done that threaten the security of this country,” Fahumy said.

While The Democrats are seeking to influence foreign policy through parliament, an approach that was most recently embraced by Mohamed Nasheed when he was Speaker before his falling out with the Maldives Democratic Party (MDP), it is constitutionally under the president’s purview, as the head of state, to direct and implement foreign policy.

Such parliamentary action, along with The Democrats’ recent push in Parliament, seeking to limit the authority of the executive branch — and that of the President when it comes to establishing ministerial positions and mandates — might have significant constitutional ramifications should they be passed into law, shifting the balance of power significantly in favour of the legislative body.