Since taking office, President Muizzu has adopted a more independent, balanced and diversified foreign policy rather than a Pro-India one. Muizzu is fulfilling his promises to become a real pro-Maldives president.

Unlike his predecessors, Muizzu chose Turkey rather than India for his first official visit. By choosing neither India nor China, Muizzu may have indicated that his foreign policy will not be tilted towards either of the Asian adversaries, but instead will focus on Maldives only. During his visit to Ankara, the two countries signed a free trade agreement and committed to strengthening defense ties. After the visit to Turkey, Muizzu flied to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Following this trip, he announced an $80 million investment from the UAE for developing the Maldives’ main international hub, Velana International Airport (VIA), which means Maldives does not need to seek further credit from India for the project. India had earlier provided $136.6 million for the expansion of the project. All these showcase an intent to diversity and reorient Maldives’ foreign policy.

While expanding cooperation with other countries, Muizzu administration is also committed to addressing domestic security concerns. The Maldives’ recent decision to terminate an agreement with India for joint hydrographic surveys has been the subject of some controversy in the Indian media. The two countries signed a Memorandum on Understanding on cooperation in the field of hydrography on June 8, 2019, during a visit by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. India has been conducting a hydrographic survey of the Maldivian territorial waters under the agreement; studying and charting reefs, lagoons, coastlines, ocean currents and tide levels. The administration has decided against renewing the hydrography agreement, which expires on June 7, 2024. The government believes it best for national security to improve the Maldivian military’s capacity to conduct such surveys, and protect such sensitive information. Mohamed Firuzul Abdul Khaleel, the undersecretary for public policy at the President’s Office said that in the future, hydrography works will be carried out under 100 percent Maldivian management, and with only Maldivians privy to the information. Meanwhile, Maldives also skipped the latest meeting of the Colombo Security Conclave in December 2023, which reflects its reservations about defence agreement with India. The government is striving to assert our autonomy in constrained circumstances, with regional powers-China and India-locked in competitive rivalry.

In addition to his multinational diplomacy, Muizzu also develops a dynamic economic and housing program. Muizzu administration aims to boost annual tourism revenue from USD 4.5 billion to USD 6 billion. Although tourism remains the main pillar of the Maldivian economy, government ministries will also focus on diversifying the economy and lessening the reliance on a single sector. As for housing crisis, President inaugurated a large scale public housing project in Male and Vilimale island, which is designed to mitigate the housing crisis, with a special focus on lower-income families. The project includes reclaiming 1,153 hectares of land, which is expected to be completed within eight months and will be three times the size of Hulhumale. The goal is to develop 65,000 housing units and create an Eco-city, which is expected to house over 240,000 residents. Despite the Parliament’s decision to cut the allocation for the project, the President has arranged funding for the project through an alternative source, thus, requiring no spending from the government. The new public housing initiative represents a significant step towards addressing the persistent housing challenges in the country. It is a testament to the government’s commitment to inclusive and sustainable development, designed to improve living conditions while considering long-term impacts on the community and the environment.

Maldives has increasingly had to navigate growing strategic competition in the Indo-Pacific. As a small island developing state, Maldives should seek assistance from as many partners as possible to enable it to address the range of challenges it faces in the maritime domain and beyond. The government’s efforts on foreign and domestic affairs show that the commitments made during his campaign were not empty promises but were made with a genuine intent to fulfil them.

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