The Democrats presidential candidate Ilyas Labeeb speaks on the presidential-talk programme 'Riyaasee Vaahaka' of Dhauru.

Ilyas vows to cancel Maldives-India pacts 'affecting sovereignty'

Asked if he believed there was Indian influence in this government, he said it was difficult to say whether or how much it was.

27 July 2023

By Mohamed Muzayyin Nazim

The Democrats’ presidential candidate Ilyas Labeeb has said that if there is anything in the "confidential" agreements signed by the government with India that affects Maldives's independence and sovereignty, such agreements will be terminated under his administration.

Ilyas made the remarks while answering questions as the first guest of the ‘Riyaasee Vaahaka’ political talk show launched by Atoll Times' sister publication, Dhauru, on Wednesday. In the interview, Ilyas spoke about the foreign policy he will pursue in his government.

The main opposition party, the PPM, has criticised the government for its foreign policy. The opposition accuses the government of Indian influence, with concerns that foreign policy has been heavily one-sided and favourable to one country.

When asked what he thought of the allegation, as a person who worked in the ruling main party until very recently, Ilyas admitted that the government is dependent on India in several aspects.

"India is our neighbour, the closest, largest country to us. We have to maintain the relationship with that country. However, there will be no secret agreements with any particular country in our government," he said.

"In our government, if there is such a [secret] agreement, we will disclose the agreements that should be disclosed to the people. I do not believe that the agreements that are now confidential should be kept secret. "

Asked if he would scrap the agreements in his government, Ilyas said that if there was anything that could undermine Maldives's independence and sovereignty as alleged by the opposition, he would first try to amend the agreements through negotiations.

"Otherwise, I have to cancel it. We cannot leave it that way if there is something in an agreement that undermines Maldives's independence and sovereignty," he said.

Asked if he believed there was Indian influence in the government, he said it was difficult to say whether or how much it was.

“However, people have concerns on various issues,” he said.

Ilyas did not directly answer the question about the alleged Indian army presence. However, he did say:

  • Maldives is a country linked to the outside world; we cannot isolate ourselves

  • Relations should be established with all countries; in particular, we must work with the international world on issues that are dear to the people, as they wish

"Moreover, we cannot keep relations with one country alone. We have to establish relations with all the countries of the world," he said.

"Therefore, military activities between the Maldivian army and the armies of other countries should be conducted with various countries instead of relying on one country alone."

Ilyas said a Democrats government would not rely on one country for anything.

"Our government will not rely on one country for anything. That is, under no circumstances do I think that while a country is developing, we can move the country forward by relying on one country for everything.”

The founder of The Democrats, Mohammed Nasheed, is also very close to India. During his government, he maintained close relations with India and received a lot of military assistance. The helicopter donated by India to Maldives and operated by the Indian army was also given during the Nasheed government.

ަFormer President Abdulla Yameen's government maintained close relations with India’s rival China, with China funding majority of development projects initiated by his government.

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih's administration has secured most of the financing from India in the past four years.