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'Doesn’t give you the licence to bully us': Maldives President Muizzu amid row with India

'Doesn’t give you the licence to bully us': Maldives President Muizzu amid row with India

India Blooms News Service | @indiablooms | 13 Jan 2024, 11:03 pm

Male: Following his five-day trip to China, President of Maldives Mohamed Muizzu on Saturday said that no nation has the authority to "bully" the island nation, media reports said.

This statement was made amid a diplomatic dispute between India and the Maldives, triggered by derogatory comments from Maldivian politicians over Prime Minister Narendra Modi's recent visit to Lakshadweep.

"We may be small, but that doesn’t give you the licence to bully us," Muizzu said during a press conference.

"Though we have small islands in this ocean, we have a vast exclusive economic zone of 900,000 square km. Maldives is one of the countries with the biggest share of this ocean," he told the media after his return from China.

"This ocean does not belong to a specific country. This (Indian) Ocean also belongs to all countries situated in it," he said, in a veiled jibe at India.

"We aren't in anyone's backyard. We are an independent and sovereign state," he was quoted as saying by the Maldives Sun Online portal.

The controversy escalated when certain Maldivian politicians, including ministers, made disparaging remarks about Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Lakshadweep.

The ministers opened a verbal attack, saying that it was an attempt to divert tourists from the island country.

After India raised the issue with the Maldives, three ministers were removed from their positions on January 7.

On the following day, the Maldivian representative to India was summoned to the External Affairs Ministry, where strong reservations were conveyed over derogatory social media posts targeting PM Modi.

The comments made by Maldives' ministers have stirred discontent among Indians, leading to the cancellation of their scheduled vacations to the island nation.

Amid the escalating tensions, EaseMyTrip, an online travel company, opted to suspend flight bookings to the Maldives.

Notably, President Muizzu of the Maldives, who was on a state visit to China, has urged the nation to "intensify" efforts in attracting more tourists to the island.

"China was our (Maldives') number one market pre-Covid, and it is my request that we intensify efforts for China to regain this position," according to a readout posted on his official website.

In October of the previous year, the Maldivian President won the elections riding on his "India Out" campaign, during which he promised the withdrawal of Indian troops from the archipelago.

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