October 24, 2023
NEW DELHI – Dr Mohamed Muizzu, who won the September 9 Maldives presidential election, has asked India to to remove every single personnel of its military from Maldivian land. Muizzu will be sworn in as new Maldives president in November and he said he will live up to his promise on foreign military presence from day one.
“We don’t want any foreign military boots on Maldivian soil… I promised this to the people of the Maldives and I will live up to my promise from day one,” the Maldivian President-elect was quoted as saying by BBC.
Muizzu said that he met the Indian ambassador a few days after his victory and “told him very clearly that every single Indian military personnel here should be removed,” according to the British broadcaster.
Muizzu is seen closer to China and his victory over the incumbent Ibrahim Mohamed Solih was seen as a setback to India. Solih was instrumental in bringing Maldives closer to New Delhi during his rule. Muizzu and his allies termed Solih’s India-first policy “a threat to Maldives sovereignty”.
Moreover, Muizzu, according to experts, favours China over India. China has invested heavily in Maldives in the form of “booby trap” loans for infrastructure building. India has also given Maldives $2bn in development assistance. Both India and China see Maldives as a strategically crucial island country in the Indian Ocean and want greater influence in the country.
“Maldives is too small to get entangled with this global power struggle. We will not get entangled into this,” the Maldivian leader said.
India has a small presence of troops in the Maldives. However, Indian military personnel who are currently posted in Maldives are under the operational command of the Maldives National Defence Force. Solih earlier said that the issue has been exaggerated by Muizzu and that there are no militarily active overseas personnel stationed in the Maldives.
While India has not given any public statement to Muizzu’s demand so far, the issue is likely to create diplomatic tensions between New Delhi and Male.