India will be the nearest and dearest neighbor of Maldives and President-elect Dr. Mohamed Muizzu's first foreign trip is expected to be to India, says the Vice President of People's National Congress (PNC)'s Vice President, Mohamed Hussain Shareef (Mundhu).
Mundhu said this in an interview to an Indian media outlet.
In his phone interview, Mundhu stated that the new elected government would absolutely like to continue the tradition, where the first foreign trip by a new Maldives president is to neighboring India.
Mundhu stated that India will be the nearest and dearest neighbor of Maldives and went onto say that the PNC/PPM coalition has continuously been making it clear to the media, even during the campaign that Maldives cannot agree to have boots on the ground from any country, not just India. As such, he noted that a potential obstacle in the bilateral relationship between both the countries, could revolve around the matter of helicopters donated by India to the Maldives.
The Vice President of PNC stated that they strongly value and want to work with India on the safety and security of the Indian Ocean, and that the biggest stakeholder will continue to be India.
He stated that when it comes to the safety and security of the seas, they do not believe that any non-Indian ocean states have a stake or should have a stake, and asserted that the Maldives will “continue to be one of India’s strongest ally in the international community”.
He stated that the critical issue with the agreement was that helicopters were to be handed over to the Maldivian military after local pilots were trained, but Indian pilots continued to operate the aircraft. He said that the newly elected government "would want to discuss with the Indian government to find a way to transfer the helicopters to our military and not have any military presence, that is the one issue which is a sticking point when it comes to Maldivian people,”.
Furthermore, highlighting that this is still to be negotiated, Mundhu stated that the incoming administration will also assess the various development initiatives initiated by India over the past five years, as pledged by the President-elect during the campaign.
He went onto say that they will honor all projects, but have yet to see the fine print of any of them.
Mundhu stated that the current administration has refused to share any of the agreements with India either with the media or parliament, over the last five years and noted that the newly elected government will be reviewing it and if the agreements conform to the constitution, laws and they are feasible, they wil continue naturally and will strongly support the completion of all projects.
Mundhu also stated that he does not think that India should be worried that the new government would be hostile towards them. He stated that "all the fear-mongering about China is unwarranted,”.
Due to the campaign by the opposition alliance PPM PNC, which claimed that the Solih administration had permitted the Indian military to be stationed in the island country, and the PPM-PNC coalition's prior "India out" motto, Dr. Muizzu had come to be seen as having ties to China, much as PPM leader Abdulla Yameen was thought to have deep ties to Beijing, in international medias.