By Andrew Richards/ September 22: The High Commission of India in the Maldives has expressed strong concerns over a targeted campaign to circulate fake news aimed at creating discord between the two nations. The High Commission publicly denounced these acts of disinformation, urging Maldivian authorities to take stern measures against the purveyors of fake news.
In a press release posted on X (formerly Twitter), the High Commission stressed the long-standing friendly relations between India and the Maldives, based on mutual trust and respect. The statement emphasised India's 'Neighbourhood First' policy, which accords the Maldives a special place. Despite the warm and harmonious relations, efforts to sow discord have become more pronounced, with allegations that Indian expatriates and officials in the Maldives are being targeted.
In recent times, fake news stories have emerged claiming that visa applicants are being questioned about their voting preferences and alleging joint emergency press conferences between the High Commission and the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF). On platforms such as X, the High Commission has provided screenshots of these falsified stories, appealing for responsible journalism and urging authorities to take suitable action against those responsible.
The rise of these fake news campaigns occurs against a backdrop of opposition criticism of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih's 'India-First' foreign policy. This policy has faced resistance from the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), which has championed an 'India Out' movement. The High Court recently upheld the validity of Solih's executive order banning this movement, ruling it cannot be revoked as it is not a 'constitutional convention'.
Contradictory narratives about Indian military presence have been of particular concern. Allegations of Indian military presence in Uthuru Thilafalhu (UTF) have been strongly refuted by the MNDF, with assurances that there are no foreign troops and that full control is maintained by MNDF soldiers. Lt Gen Abdulla Shamal, Chief of the Defence Force, in an interview, stated that any operations involving Indian aid in the form of helicopters and other assets are ordered and controlled by the MNDF.
Both the Indian High Commission and the Maldives government have denounced the act of circulating fake letters and news as a deliberate attempt to strain diplomatic relationships. Maldivian authorities have been urged to investigate these instances thoroughly to preserve the integrity of a diplomatic relationship that has stood the test of time.
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