The ‘India Out’ campaign began in 2020 when Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and the People’s National Congress (PNC) led protests offline and on social media against the alleged presence of Indian military personnel on Maldivian soil. Since his release from prison after corruption and embezzlement charges against him were overturned, former President Abdullah Yameen (who was very close to China during his Presidency) has joined the nationwide campaign alleging that India has developed a major military presence in Maldives – claims the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) denies. MDP has continued the decades old close ties Maldives has with India. President Yameen warns that this Indian presence could encourage others such as China and the USA to establish a presence in the Maldives. Additionally he wants to cancel defence deals signed with India.
Threats against Indian teachers were reported as well as the slogan sprayed on the wall of a school was said to be motivated by President Yameen’s statement that “India Out” should be sprayed on all walls. The door of the residence of the Defence Minister (who has claimed that this campaign is being run to distract from work with India which is leading to the capture of drug networks and by a handful of social media bots instructed by people in the networks to create unrest) was also graffitied with the slogan. The National Security Council decided that the campaign to incite hatred against India is a threat to national security and a Presidential Decree banned the ‘India Out’ Campaign with a Presidential decree leading to disagreement within the ruling MDP party as even those opposed to the India Out campaign do not agree with the Presidential ban which impinged on fundamental rights.
The primary actors identified are political actors. Secondary actors include individual actors and media platforms.
- Although secondary actors, individual actors such as anonymous social media accounts as well as public accounts contribute to spreading of the narratives.
- Political parties:
- Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM)
- Peoples National Congress (PNC)
- Former President Yaameen Abdul Gayyoom
- And other politicians part of the opposition coalition.
- News by Maldivian media reflect the narratives and political leanings of their owners
- The state media which is usually aligned with the ruling government of the time.
- The primary actors involved are transparent about their identities.
- Secondary actors include anonymous accounts which are not transparent.
Behaviour of primary actors suggest aspersive intent.
- President Ibrahim Solih has described ‘India Out’ as a “organized campaign that intends to disrupt the longstanding bilateral relations between Maldives and India”
- No evidence was found of unlawful communication by primary actors.
- Although evidence was not found of dependency it cannot be ruled out.
- Fake accounts are used by actors in the Maldives to boost engagements for their continent to promote their narratives.
- No evidence was found of back-end communication.
- The content by primary actors does not carry threat but is harmful.
- Some of the content by secondary actors such as anonymous social media accounts that are extremist carry threats and harm.
- The main language used is Dhivehi (written in Thaana or latin alphabets), sometimes with a mix of English words and content.
- The content is not based on self-expression.
- The content is deceptive.
- Media opposed to the government such as Dhiyares have published unverifiable claims by “sources under anonymity”.
- No evidence was found that the content is synthetic.
- Accuses government of allowing Indian Presence in the Maldives.
- Indian military presence in the Maldives is a threat to the sovereignty of Maldives.
- The Maldivian government is a puppet of India.
- Only against Indian military presence in the Maldives and are not against trade, cultural and other ties.
- The general adult population of Maldives.
- Particularly the voter population and
- those who are more politically active.
- No evidence was found of micro-targeting.
- Social media platforms: (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram),
- Messaging applications: (Whatsapp, Viber, Telegram),
- TV channels
- News Media: websites and social media
- Political rallys/gatherings
- Loud speakers mounted on vehicles
- Although evidence of inauthentic boost to engagement was not found, it cannot be ruled out.
- Fake accounts are a popular method used by actors in the Maldives to boost engagements for their continent to promote their narratives.
It is a coordinated and ongoing campaign which is being used along with other similar campaigns such as ‘Ban MDN’ and ‘Defend Islam’.
- The ‘India Out’ campaign has fueled protests and civic unrest in the country.
- The campaign has been termed a threat to national security by the government.
- President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih signed a decree banning the ‘India Out’ campaign stating that: “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”
- According to the President, the campaign: threatens the sovereignty of the state, hinders the maintenance of safety of Maldivians living abroad, Maldivians who travel abroad, as well as the safety and protection of foreigners under the responsibility of the State.
- Following the decree the Maldives Police Service removed banners from buildings in the capital Malé, after a day’s notice.
This case has been identified as a targeted campaign of influence operation.
- Actors: Primary actors: political actors
- Behaviour: indicates combination of influence techniques to achieve the goal of the targeted campaign.
- Content: includes multiple types to achieve the goal including images, videos, sermons/statements, social media posts, website content and more.
- Degree: is coordinated.
- Effect: Furthered the objectives of the actors involved.
The ‘India Out’ campaign is being used by the opposition PPM to score political points against the ruling MDP government which has maintained the decades old close ties Maldives has with India. The campaign aims to ferment dissent against the ruling MDP government and President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. With the presidential elections of 2023 around the corner, PPM and former President Yaameen Abdhul Gayyoom has once again ramped up the campaign.