Male: China has stepped up its information against India in the Maldives with much help from both the local news portal Dhiyares and former President Abdulla Yameen ahead of next year’s Presidential elections in the atoll nation.
The ‘India Out’ campaign in the Maldives is known to be driven politically by former President Abdulla Yameen. Much before Yameen took the driver’s seat, a section of the Maldivian media led by the news portal Dhiyares, had begun a concerted campaign against India. It is, therefore, necessary to trace the roots of this campaign and understand the motives behind the campaign, according to Policy Research Group (PRG)’s Insight
Two things stand out about Ahmed Azaan, the founder of Dhiyares. First, he has consistently been calling for greater Chinese presence in the Maldives and second, he has used social media to the hilt to attack India and its alleged military presence in the country. The Chinese angle to this entire sordid episode can only be adduced based on the context of Azaan’s anti-India campaign, as analysed by PRG’s Insight.
Interestingly, the website of The Maldives Journal states that Ahmed Azaan is a journalist and writer with a BA in International Relations and describes him as one of the co-founders of “Dhiyares” and “The Maldives Journal”. His BA is apparently from ADA University in Azerbaijan. His areas of interest are said to be politics and economics.
On the other hand, during the presidency of Abdulla Yameen from 2013 to 2018, the Maldives had borrowed heavily from China, leading to a debt trap situation. As of now, Maldives owes China around USD 1.5 billion, which is huge for a country with a GDP of USD 4.9 billion
The reality is that China is displeased with the grant of several infrastructure projects to India in recent days, and would like to take these over.
Meanwhile, by flooding Twitter space in the Maldives with #IndiaOut content, Azaan has been able to create a mirage that a large number of Maldivians are rooting for #IndiaOut. This is not the case in reality as Azaan footprint for the #IndiaOut campaign has been exceedingly high and all the major supporters of the hashtag are also Azaan’s close associates.
Notably, around 210 handles had contributed a gigantic amount of 80 per cent to the hashtag. This basically means that the entire #IndiaOut hashtag can be traced to Azaan and his followers, working with a special agenda in mind.
A far more important issue here is to trace the Chinese connections of Azaan and his publications. These platforms of disinformation need to be monitored for they have shown a marked capability to create a rift in India-Maldives ties.
It is time to identify and expose the dangerous inroads made by the Chinese in Maldivian media and social media, as described by PRG’s Insight.