Maldives’s new President Mohamed Muizzu yesterday met Union Minister of Earth Sciences Kiren Rijiju formally urging the Indian government to remove its military personnel from the island nation. The move is expected as Muizzu, who is considered ‘pro-China’ in his policies, had promised to end foreign military presence during his poll campaign. Muizzu had time and again said that once into power, he would draw a red line in terms of the country’s security while respecting the red lines of other countries too. According to reports, the Ministry of External Affairs of India is discussing a ‘workable solution’ to the issue as Indian soldiers man radars and surveillance aircraft in Maldives while Indian warships help patrol the island country’s exclusive economic zone. There are around 70 Indian soldiers in Maldives
It was speculated that Muizzu would replace Indian soldiers with Chinese, a move he denied saying Maldives is too small for any ‘geopolitical rivalry’. The Maldives’ statement regarding Indian troops coincided with a visit from Shen Yiqin, the Special Envoy of the Chinese President, who paid a courtesy visit to President Muizzu on the same day.
Privileged to call on President H.E. Dr. Mohamed Muizzu.
Conveyed greetings from Hon’ble PM @NarendraModi and reiterated India’s commitment to further strengthen the substantive bilateral cooperation and robust people-to-people ties. pic.twitter.com/nFa95QD9ES
— Kiren Rijiju (@KirenRijiju) November 18, 2023
Rijiju attended the swearing-in ceremony of Mohamed Muizzu on Friday and paid a courtesy call at the President’s Office yesterday when Muizzu made the request. “At the meeting, President Muizzu had formally requested the Government of India to withdraw its military personnel from the Maldives. The President noted that at the Presidential Election held in September, the Maldivian people had given him a strong mandate to make the request to India and expressed the hope that India would honour the democratic will of the people of the Maldives,” a statement from Maldives President’s Office said.
The statement further said, “The Minister expressed his aspiration to foster a constructive relationship with the Maldives, acknowledging the presence of a vibrant Indian community residing in the Maldives.” President Muizzu and Minister Kiren Rijiju also reviewed the progress of the implementation of various projects in the Maldives with the support of India.
India has said that its cooperation with Maldives is based on jointly addressing shared challenges and priorities. MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi had said last month at a media briefing that assistance and platforms that India has provided have contributed significantly in areas like people’s welfare, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and combating illegal maritime activities in Maldives. (With agency inputs)