Maldives may have been and may still become another victim of China’s debt diplomacy
The Opposition candidate Mohammed Muizzu has won the second round run-off in the Presidential elections in Male with 54.04 per cent of the vote to incumbent Ibu Solih’s 45.96 per cent. The Indian Ocean archipelago is ready to spin back into the China orbit.
The democratic verdict in free and fair elections may not be to the liking of India, one of Maldives’ closest neighbours, which in the past five years had brought the Maldives back fully into the Indian sphere of influence with big investments in infrastructure and other material and moral support after Solih had become a runaway winner in the 2018 polls and had ushered in the “India First” policy.
A drop in tourism with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 in a nation wholly dependent on tourist inflow thanks its year-round sunshine and picture postcard perfect beaches, infighting in Solih’s party, MDP, and the Opposition PPM party’s emotional call for ousting Indian troops from the islands that had once helped deal with civil unrest caused by political turmoil, had all contributed to a result that presages a huge geopolitical swing.
Maldives may have been and may still become another victim of China’s debt diplomacy, of which another neighbour, Sri Lanka, is a classic example. But, in a bipolar world, this swing from one bloc to the other is the “new normal” and India may just have to deal with it, as it did with alacrity in bolstering the Lankan economy in the wake of its worst crisis or learn to live with it.
In which direction the wind is swinging was already made clear in the jailed former Maldives President Abdulla Yameen being transferred from prison, where he was serving an 11-year term for corruption, to house arrest, with unseemly haste it would appear, but only on the outgoing President’s order, under the prompting of the poll winner of course, as a regime change became certain in the polls, with Muizzu to take office on November 17.