MALE, Maldives (AP) — The president of the Maldives stated Saturday that his nation’s small dimension does not give anybody the license to bully it, in an indication of defiance towards India, the archipelago state’s big neighbor.

President Mohamed Muizzu, chatting with the media on his return from India’s regional rival China, stated the Maldives is just not in any nation’s yard and that the Indian Ocean doesn’t belong to a single nation — a reference to a latest tiff between the Maldives and India.

“We could also be small however that does not provide the license to bully us,” Muizzu concluded in English, having made his assertion within the native Dhivehi language.

The newest dispute began with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi posting images on X, previously Twitter, displaying him strolling and snorkeling within the Indian archipelago of Lakshadweep, which his authorities believes has an untapped potential for tourism.

Nevertheless, within the Maldives, some noticed it as an try to attract guests away from its sandy white seashores and high-end island resorts common with celebrities.

“We’re a free and unbiased nation. So this territorial integrity is one thing China respects firmly,” stated Muizzu, signaling the Maldives authorities’s effort to interrupt from India’s affect.

Muizzu was elected president final November on an “India Out” platform promising to take away some Indian navy personnel stationed within the Maldives. He accused his predecessor of compromising nationwide sovereignty.

Three authorities deputy ministers posted derogatory remarks in opposition to Modi on X and have been suspended by Muizzu’s authorities, which stated these remarks don’t mirror authorities coverage.

Nevertheless, many Indians took to social media urging a boycott of the island nation.

The incident highlighted the delicate nature of the connection between India and the Maldives and its susceptibility to a breakdown at a time when Beijing and New Delhi are each vying for affect within the island nation.

A breakdown in relations might have an effect on the Maldives extra since a lot of its residents journey to India for well being care and schooling whereas most staples and medicines are imported from that nation.

Final 12 months, India despatched probably the most vacationers to the Maldives, an 11% share.

Nevertheless, Muizzu stated China despatched the biggest variety of vacationers to the Maldives earlier than the COVID-19 pandemic and steps can be taken to double that quantity.

He additionally introduced plans that, if carried out, will allow the Maldives to interrupt from its dependence on India.

Muizzu stated government-sponsored common well being look after Maldivians offered in hospitals in India and Sri Lanka shall be expanded to Thailand and the United Arab Emirates.

Most Maldivians now go to hospitals in India for therapy.

“When that is totally established, Maldivians shall be served a lot better from international locations with a lot better high quality than the international locations we go to now,” stated Muizzu.

He additionally stated the Maldives has reached an settlement with Turkey for the import of rice, sugar and wheat flour. Medicines shall be imported straight from producers in Europe and the US, he stated.

“We are going to absolutely set up our independence, our sovereignty and set up the Maldives of the Maldivians,” he stated.

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