Tensions Rise After Maldives Grants Chinese Ship Clearance

A Chinese ship has been granted permission to dock in the Maldives, which might further irritate India, which is already embroiled in a diplomatic imbroglio.

Although they did not provide a date of arrival, the Maldives foreign ministry verified with local media that the research vessel Xiang Yang Hong 3 was en route to the Maldives.

A statement from the ministry said that a diplomatic request was made by the government of China to the government of Maldives, asking if they could be cleared for a port call to rotate their personnel and to get food and drink. It was mentioned that while stationed in Male port, the ship will not be undertaking any research.

The feud began when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shared photos of himself strolling and snorkeling in the Indian territory of Lakshadweep, which resembles the Maldives. The Lakshadweep Islands’ white sand beaches are an unrealized tourist gem, according to the Indian government. Some Maldivians, meanwhile, regarded it as Modi trying to entice visitors away from the country’s world-famous beaches and island resorts. A social media outcry by three Indian deputy ministers criticizing Modi led to demands from Indian citizens for a travel boycott of the Maldives.

The tensions rose when Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu went to China, an ally of India’s in the area, and then returned with a plan to wean his tiny country off its reliance on India for healthcare, pharmaceuticals, and food imports. Last year, Indians made up the bulk of Maldives tourists. However, Muizzu announced plans to increase the number of Chinese tourists by 100%, as they had been the most numerous before the COVID-19 outbreak.

In their struggle for dominance over the Indian Ocean, China and India have both been eyeing the Maldives. Because of its proximity to India, the Maldives are often seen as being under India’s sphere of influence. China has recruited the Maldives as a partner as part of its Belt and Road program, which seeks to increase commerce and Chinese influence throughout Europe, Africa, and Asia by constructing ports and roadways.