The Maldives government’s recent alignment with China and a Chinese ship docking announcement has sparked domestic criticism, raising concerns about the nation’s development trajectory.

The opposition parties, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and the Democrats, caution against an “anti-India stance,” emphasizing the potential harm to long-term development by alienating a historically significant ally. President Mohamed Muizzu’s victory in the 2023 elections was based on an anti-India narrative, marking a departure from previous pro-India policies.

The opposition parties stress the importance of working with all development partners, including India, for the country’s stability and security in the Indian Ocean. With a joint representation of 55 seats in the 87-member house, the opposition’s assessment challenges the current foreign policy direction.

The Maldives recently strengthened ties with China following a diplomatic dispute over derogatory comments against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The country’s decision to allow a Chinese survey ship to dock, coupled with a March 5 deadline for India to withdraw its troops, underscores a significant shift away from India towards China.

President Muizzu’s first state visit to China, making it his initial port of call after assuming office, further signifies the evolving geopolitical dynamics in the region. The Maldives government’s assertion that the Chinese ship won’t conduct research in Maldivian waters is seen as a manifestation of the country’s pivot towards Beijing, marking a shift in traditional diplomatic practices.