Agency: The Maldivian President, Mohamed Muizzu, has proposed that the Indian government withdraw its military presence from the archipelago nation before March 15. This comes amid the strained diplomatic relations between the two nations over recent derogatory comments by Maldivian ministers targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
In November 2023, Muizzu, the new president of the Maldives, who campaigned on a platform of reducing ties with India and increasing engagement with China, officially requested India to withdraw its military personnel stationed in the country.
India has maintained a small military presence in the Maldives for several years at the request of the previous Maldivian government. According to the latest government figures, there are 88 Indian military personnel in the Maldives at present, primarily tasked with assisting in maritime security and disaster relief.
A senior Maldivian official, Abdulla Nazim Ibrahim, confirmed the development and said, “Indian military personnel cannot stay in the Maldives. This is the policy of President Dr Mohamed Muizzu and that of this administration”.
Maldives and India have set up a high-level core group to negotiate the withdrawal of troops. The group held its first meeting at the Foreign Ministry Headquarters in Male on Sunday morning.
In a statement issued in November, the Maldivian President’s office stated that his country “hopes that India will honour the democratic will of the people”.
“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 will honour the democratic will of the people of the Maldives,” the statement read. However, the government had not proposed any deadline to withdraw the troops.
The India-Maldives relations deteriorated recently after Maldivian leaders, including serving ministers, mocked Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Lakshadweep. The Maldivian ministers reacted with derogatory remarks after several on the internet compared the pristine beaches of Lakshadweep to the Maldives.
This invited sharp criticism from the Indian side, with many calling for a boycott of Maldives. India officially raised the issue with Maldives, and three ministers, Malsha Shareef, Mariyam Shiuna, and Abdulla Mahzoom Majid, were suspended by the Muizzu government.
In a latest development in the row, after concluding his five-day China visit, President Muizzu on Saturday said that no country had the right to “bully” his country. “We may be small, but that doesn’t give you the licence to bully us,” Muizzu said during a press conference, without directly referring to the India-Maldives issue.
(Courtesy: India Today)