On 15th March, 2022, former Minister of Home Affairs, Maldives, Umar Naseer, took internet by storm when he shared an alleged agreement’s details on Facebook. The compact shows the agreement between Maldives and Indian government on development of coast guard harbor, it also refers to Indian military settlement in Maldives. This signing of the agreement is the first time that a Maldivian government has permitted a long-term foreign military presence in the country, since the British left.
Maldives government has stated that the draft of Indian defense pact is fake. The fake news was debunked in numerous leading national newspapers.
Various Indian news outlets confirmed the agreement for developing naval harbor in Maldives
Maldives National Defense Force verified account on Twitter has also confirmed the signing of pact.
The Leaked Agreement
Given below are the images shared by the former Minister of Home Affairs of Maldives, Umar Naseer, showing details of the agreement between the governments of Maldives and India.
An Armed Military Presence
The terms of the agreement permit Indian military personnel to carry weapons at Uthuru Thila Falhu (UTF).
Article 6 of the draft agreement highlights the terms for the management, administration, and maintenance of the facilities. As per Article 6.6, Indian military personnel “on active duty” at UTF Facilities would be allowed to “carry arms and other such equipment”. The clause also allows Indian military personnel to use and operate the communucations facilities in order to carry out maritime surveillance and “security”related tasks.
During a press conference held with regards to the signing of the UTF agreement, the Vice-Chief of the Defence Force, Brig. Gen. Abdur Raheem Abdul Latheef, had claimed that no foreign military personnel would be stationed at the harbour, and that only Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) and Coast Guard personnel would be active at UTF once the project was completed. The MNDF had also declared that the only Indian personnel present on the facilities would be “technicians”.
Article 6.6 of the UTF agreement
The UTF agreement is to enter into force from the day of its signature and would remain in force for a period of 60 years, in total.
According to Article 12 of the agreement, it would remain in force for a period of 30 years from the date of signature. The agreement’s validity would then be “automatically” extended for another 30 years, unless both the Maldivian and Indian governments “mutually agree” not to extend it.
This signing of the UTF agreement is the first time that the Maldivian government had permitted a long-term foreign military presence in the country since the British left.
During the press conference held in February, 2022, by the MNDF, Vice Chief of Defense Force Brig. Gen. Abdur Raheem Abdul Latheef had claimed that Indian personnel would only be allowed to remain on the facilities for any time duration decided by the MNDF. However, based on the text of the agreement, it is clear that Brig. Gen. Abdur Raheem’s statements are categorically untrue.
Free Access for Indian Military Vessels
According to the UTF agreement, Indian vessels and aircraft would have unrestricted free access to berth and land at UTF.
According to Article 6.3 of the copy of the UTF agreement, both “personnel, marine and air vessels and other platforms as well as other communication systems” that belong to India and the Maldives would have “the right to full utilization of the facilities”.
The terms also state that India may berth and land their vessels and deploy their personnel at UTF “free of charge”.
The following Article 6.4 states that the Government of Maldives would, on commercial basis, provide full logistical support to Indian vessels when requested. The agreement states that such support would be “supply of rations, food supplies, petroleum, fuel and lubricants, spares etc to the personnel, marine and air vessels of Government of India utilizing the Facility”.
Live Link to the Indian Navy
Article 6.5 states that both the Maldivian and Indan Governments should consider signing an Implementing Arrangement between the UTF facilities and an Indian naval dockyard. The purpose of the Implementing Arrangement would be to “institutionalize and streamline the process of providing technical expertise and materiel [sic] support”.
Diplomatic Immunity for All Indian Personnel
As per Article 6.9, all Indian personnel working to implement the UTF agreement would “at all times” respect the laws of Maldives. However, such personnel would not be subject to any suit or proceedings would be instituted against such a person for anything “done or purported to be done in good faith” in the course of their duties, “except in the case of gross negligience or willful misconduct”.
Article 6.10 require that all Indian personnel who would be present in the Maldives to carry out the “implementation of the agreement”, and the Maldivian Government was to grant “full immunity to the personnel deputed by the Government of the Republic of India”. The article requires that their papers, and their premises, would be granted immunity from all Maldivian legal and judicial processes.
The agreement grants India the legal power to prevent any third-party from utilizing the UTF facilities.
Article 6.8 states that the UTF facilities may only be used by “non-Government” third-party commercial maritime and air traffic with the “prior consultation and mutual agreement between” the Maldivian and Indian governments.
It is worth noting, the Indian government had proposed developing UTF on the condition of Indian exclusivity during President Yameen Abdul Gayyoom’s administration. The Yameen administration rejected the proposal.
India Runs the Show
The UTF project is managed and maintained through the co-operation of the Indian and Maldivian governments.
The agreement states that the project’s execution would be monitored by the Joint Project Monitoring Committee (JPMC), and the agreement states that the Committee would comprise of the following individuals:
The Chief of Defence Force of the MNDF, currently Major Gen. Abdullah Shamal,
The Indian High Commissioner, currently Sanjay Sudhir,
Two persons nominated by the government of Maldives,
Two persons nominated by the government of India.
Article 7 agreement calls for the formation of a Joint Working Group on completion of the project and once the UTF facilities are commissioned. The mandate of the Joint Working Group would be to monitor and review the progress of the agreement and to resolve any issues that may arise in its implementation. Just like the JMDC, the Joint Working Group is required to meet at least once every six months in either the Maldives or in India.
The Joint Working Group would consist of the Chief of Defence Force of the MNDF, the Indian High Commissioner (who would both co-chair the Joint Working Group as they did the JPMC). In addition would be the Commandant of Coast Guard of MNDF, Defence Advisor at the Indian High Commission, two persons nominated by each of the Indian and Maldivian governments, and the heads of the Joint Resident Team.
The agreement states that the Joint Working Group may act upon any written decision signed by the both of the co-chairs of the Joint Working Group, as it was with the JPMC.
Although the MNDF, when speaking to the press, had made the impression that Indian technical assistance would be provided to cater to the demands of the MNDF: the text of the agreement makes it clear that India would be closely involved in running the facilities at UTF, contrary to the public statements made by the MNDF.
The Government’s Response
Dhiyares’ publication of the leaked agreement had evoked a rushed reaction from the government.
As Dhiyares’ website came under several malicious denial-of-service attacks throughout the afternoon, all members of the Advisory Council of the MNDF were summoned to Bandaara Koshi, the MNDF head-quarters, with regard to the leaked documents.
As per a high-ranking official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, speaking anonymously, Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid took several calls from Sanjay Sudhir, the Indian High Commissioner.
Minister Shahid had then called Minister of Defence, Uza Mariya Ahmad Didi and requested that she releases a statement through the Ministry of Defence claiming that the leaked agreement was a forgery.
Sometime later, the Ministry of Defence released a press release claiming that the leaked agreement was a forgery.
(PR)28-AD-3/PRIV/2021/1 Ministry of Defense Maldivian president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom Press Release Copy of agreement signed between Maldives and India. 2021 204 Information circulating in the media on Monday, 5th of this month, has been brought to the attention of the Ministry. I would like to draw the attention of the Maldivian people to this matter. Maldives national defense minister and India’s United Nations Seven false documents in Laamu Atoll. K. Alifu Atoll “I’m going to go to the island. National security, state interest and the Maldivian people Seven countries will be able to lose the interests of the Maldivian people.  The minister said that he would not disclose any false information about the case. All Maldivians will not be allowed to do so. 1442 02 2021 15 (Translation May not be accurate due to language barrier)
A well-known journalist, Ahmed Azaan from Maldives shared the drawings of the military base being developed by India near Male`, the capital of Maldives.
The agreement has not been made public, but after the signing of the UTF agreement, MNDF held a press conference.
As per media reports, Maldives vice chief of defence force, Brigadier General Abdul Raheem Abdul Latheef, said that the project was a not a military base but the development of a harbour to dock, maintain and repair MNDF coast guard vessels.
There were several questions about the stationing of Indian military personnel. The senior MNDF official stated that no foreign military personnel would be stationed and only “MNDF and Coast Guard personnel would be active at UTF once the project was complete,” as quoted by Raajje News.
Abdulla Yameen and India Out campaign:
Abdulla Yameen (president of Maldives from 2013 to 2018), along with his party, the Progressive Party of Maldives, is known to have a pro-China stance, given that his government pivoted towards Beijing despite Malé having extremely tight ties with New Delhi for over two decades.
His five-year rule was characterised by widespread human rights violations, suppression of free speech, and a crackdown on dissent. Human Rights Watch had called his style of governance an “all-out assault on democracy”.
Yameen was released from house arrest in December last year after the Supreme Court of the Maldives overturned his conviction. He had been convicted of corruption and money laundering in November 2019.
His return to Maldivian politics will no doubt influence the 2024 presidential and parliamentary elections.
But it is also likely to have an effect on relations between the Maldives and India. A few days after Yameen got his freedom back, his party, the PPM, began escalating the “India Out” campaign with posters and press releases with his pictures all over them.
“The ‘India Out’ campaign has become more politically active because now they have a leader, a strong face, with Yameen. That wasn’t there before. Now it is no longer a civil society movement. It is definitely a political movement,” Gulbin Sultana, an expert on Maldivian affairs, told The Indian Express.
‘India Out’ campaign in Maldives is a Chinese propaganda According to reports in Indian media outlets, ‘India out’ campaign in Maldives is a part of Chinese propaganda against India. Yameen and his supporters dubbed the agreement as a way through which Indian troops would be stationed in the Maldives and in the months to come launched the ‘India Out’ campaign on social media accusing the Solih regime of compromising the sovereignty of the country.
Maldives government put a ban on ‘India Out’ campaign
Maldives President Ibrahim Solih has signed a decree stating that the opposition’s ‘India Out’ campaign is a “threat to national security”. This allows security agencies to take down campaign banners and provides constitutional cover to take action against opposition parties.
The notification stated that the “the campaign against India, which exploits the freedom of expression and freedom of assembly guaranteed under the Constitution, is an organised campaign that intends to disrupt the longstanding bilateral relations between Maldives and India, as well as the important efforts to maintain peace and security of this region, by threatening the peace and security of the Maldives”.
All We Know About the Hashtag #AresstYameen
Trending in Maldives from 4th April to 11th April, 2022
As part of our social media monitoring efforts, trending hashtags on Twitter are being monitored, using Artificial Intelligence assisted tools. The gathered data will help to derive inference about the trending topics on a daily basis.
The hashtag #AresstYameen was first posted by a bot account named Samhar Sadik @SaadiSamhar from Maldives. Later, it was retweeted by real twitter users along with other bot accounts.
Following diffusion network illustrates the spread of the hashtag.
Red dots indicate the bot accounts.
During the analysis of the trend, it was found that out 118 accounts 17 were bot accounts that were used to make the hashtag #ArrestYameen popular.
*Note: Bot analysis is based on accounts made for PR, Account Age, Specific Purpose.
Profile Analysis of Originator
It was analyzed that the account that originated #ArrestYameen hashtag was created on March 07, 2022. It has no profile picture and has no followers.
Other keywords and hashtags that were mentioned with#ArrestYameen are shown below
Volume of Tweets
This hashtag started to trend on 4th April, 2022 with 1700 tweets. It was mentioned 215,078 times in 8 days with 3,107 Retweets.
Other than twitter hashtag was mentioned by 2 mainstream media, as shown below
Out of the total 215K volume, 2.6% discussion on Twitter generated positive sentiments, 15% generated negative sentiments, whereas 82% of the entire discussion was recorded with neutral sentiments. The following chart depicts the sentiments reflected in the tweets using the hashtag.
Following are the main topics of discussion, main keywords and phrases used by people while quoting the hashtag #ArrestYameen
Volume by Country
Tweets by Language
Types of Tweets
A bot account on twitter started the trend of #ArrestYameen, which was further boosted by original accounts of supporters of current President of Maldives; Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. The hashtag was a part of an effort to counter the ‘India Out’ campaign led and spread by former president of Maldives; Abdulla Yameen. The hashtag did not gain much popularity as the general public of Maldives is supporting Abdulla Yameen in his cause and they believe that the agreement signed between Maldives and Indian government is a threat to the national security of Maldives.
ABCDE Framework-Based Analysis
|Actor||Independent social media users and bot account are involved in disseminating the propaganda against former president of Maldives to counter his ‘India Out’ campaign.|
|Behavior||Video and pictures are posted with misleading captions/ context to demotivate Abdulla Yameen supporters who are favoring his ‘India Out’ campaign.|
|Content||Social Media posts.|
|Degree||‘India Out’ and #ArrestYameen campaigns in Maldives are setting a new heated wave of arguments online and offline. It is leading supporters of former president and current ruling party to hate speech and chaos.|
|Effect||Government and opposition party of Maldives both are busy in disseminating their side of message to masses. Former president of Maldives accuses current government for putting national security on risk by signing the UTF agreement, Yameen and his supporters are protesting countrywide to put Indian military out. On contrary, India out campaign was countered by #ArrestYameen trend on social media which failed to gain public attention, to stop people from protesting against the pact, Maldives government has put ban on ‘India Out’ campaign, labelling it a threat to healthy relationship with India.|