President Mohamed Muizzu has ordered the removal of dozens of New Delhi’s troops stationed in the islands
Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu has said he will not allow his country’s sovereignty to be “undermined,” in what has been viewed as a thinly veiled swipe at India amid strained relations between the two nations.
Muizzu made the comments on Monday during an address to the Maldivian parliament that was boycotted by opposition parties. The leader, who was elected president in September, reiterated his government’s position on the Indian military stationed in the archipelago nation.
Male had earlier this month set a deadline for New Delhi to withdraw around 80 troops, most of whom were deployed to operate and fly two Dornier aircraft and a helicopter given to the Maldives by India for emergency evacuations.
In his speech, Muizzu announced that Indian troops on one of the Maldives’ three aviation platforms will leave by March 10, while personnel on the other two will withdraw by May 10. The agreement was reached by the two nations last week, Male claimed in a statement. The Indian Foreign Ministry, however, has refrained from explicitly mentioning the withdrawal, stating only that both parties had agreed “to facilitate the ongoing operation of Indian aviation platforms.”
In his speech on Monday, Muizzu also stated that the Maldives would not renew an agreement with India “to chart the country’s inner and underwater charts.” The agreement, signed in 2019, expired last year.
Removing Indian troops was a key campaign pledge by Muizzu, who heads the People’s National Congress party. Immediately after coming to power, he formally asked New Delhi to withdraw, causing tensions. Ties between the two neighbors worsened even further after remarks from Maldivian officials about Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi were seen as “derogatory” by New Delhi.
Despite distancing itself from the comments and initially suspending the ministers involved, the Maldivian government later reinstated them, triggering outcry from the opposition.
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Meanwhile, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), which holds the parliamentary majority, and the Democrats Party both snubbed Muizzu’s parliamentary address. The opposition has openly criticized the Maldives’ foreign policy shift since Muizzu was elected. The new leader is keen to cultivate closer ties with Beijing, in contrast to his predecessor, Mohamed Solih, whose tenure was marked by an embrace of India.
Last month, Beijing pledged $130 million to the island nation during a state visit by Muizzu to China. Meanwhile, Muizzu has also insisted on increasing tourism flows from China as Indians – who topped the islands’ foreign tourist arrivals charts in recent years – have largely stayed away amid the diplomatic spat.
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