In his first international media interview since winning the presidential election, Dr Mohamed Muizzu sat down with Al Jazeera to discuss his vision for the Maldives. Yet, despite a comprehensive dialogue, the international media’s interpretation of Muizzu’s leadership remains largely trapped within the context of geopolitical machinations involving India and China.

An Interview that Revealed More Than Allegiances

Muizzu used his platform on Al Jazeera to address a host of issues, from domestic policies to foreign relations. While he acknowledged China’s non-interference policy as beneficial, he was keen to emphasise his “pro-Maldives” stance. This nuance, however, seems to have been largely overlooked by other international outlets, who continue to label him as “pro-China.”

The Persistent Debt Narrative

Al Jazeera’s interview also highlighted the debt situation that the Maldives has with China, owing to numerous infrastructure projects. Although Muizzu managed these initiatives in his previous roles, the topic of debt sustainability is still glossed over in many subsequent international analyses. Such an omission could misrepresent the prudence required for the Maldives to maintain its relationship with Beijing.

India: More Than Just Troops on the Ground

The international media, largely echoing Al Jazeera’s focus, has spotlighted Muizzu’s commitment to remove Indian military personnel from the Maldives. While this is a significant policy decision, it shouldn’t overshadow India’s other engagements with the Maldives—namely finance, trade, and infrastructure growth. These multi-dimensional aspects of the Maldivian-Indian relationship warrant a more nuanced discussion, which appears lacking in current narratives.

Geography as Destiny?

The Maldives’ strategic position in the Indian Ocean gives it unique leverage. Although Muizzu discussed this geographical advantage in his Al Jazeera interview, many international reports insist on placing his election within the framework of the larger conflict between the Quad alliance and China. This perspective risks reducing the Maldives to merely a pawn on the geopolitical chessboard.

Striving for a Balanced Narrative

While Muizzu did talk about diversifying international partnerships in his Al Jazeera interview, the global media still appears inclined towards a reductionist viewpoint. They often bypass his “pro-Maldives” vision, which implies a balanced and multifaceted foreign policy rather than a unilateral alignment.

The president-elect’s first international interview offered a platform to clarify his policy perspectives, yet the ensuing international commentary remains heavily skewed towards geopolitical angles involving China and India. These narratives risk obscuring the president-elect’s own priorities and the complex dynamics of the Maldives’ international relationships.