“We don’t want any foreign military boots on Maldivian soil… I made this promise to the Maldivian people and I will keep my promise from day one.”
The winner of the Maldives presidential election last month. Mohamed Muizzu, said that he would not spend more time in ousting Indian troops from his country. BBC news.
Muizzu will take over as president at the end of November. In an interview, he told the BBC that he met the Indian ambassador a few days after winning the election and made it clear to him that every Indian military personnel stationed in the Maldives must be removed.
Maldives, a relatively less powerful country, has been in India’s ring for a long time; On the other hand, Muizzu’s claim could lead to diplomatic tension between Malaysia and Delhi.
Since coming to power in 2018 on behalf of the Maldivian Democratic Party, current President Ibrahim Mohamed Salih has strengthened ties with India. At the same time, Male maintains close cultural and economic ties with Delhi. He called it the ‘India Fast’ policy.
As a result, the ‘pro-Chinese’ Muizzu’s victory naturally became a cause of concern for India.
Muizzu’s alliance favors closer ties with China; The country has invested millions of dollars in the Maldives in the form of loans and grants for infrastructure and development projects.
On the other hand, India has also provided the country with nearly $2 billion in development aid, seeking to exert influence over strategically located islands to monitor an important part of the Indian Ocean.
If its military personnel are forced to leave, it will be a big blow to Delhi.
Incidentally, Delhi ‘gifted’ two helicopters in 2010 and 2013 and a small aircraft in 2020 to Maldives.
Delhi said the craft would be used for both search and rescue operations.
But in 2021, the Maldivian Defense Force reported that 75 Indian military personnel were stationed in the country to operate and maintain Indian aircraft. This fueled suspicion and anger as many felt the planes were being used as an excuse to keep Indian troops in the Maldives.
Muizzu believes the presence of these troops could put the Maldives at risk—especially given the heightened tensions between India and China along their Himalayan border.
“Maldives is too small a country to get involved in this global power struggle. We cannot get involved in this,” he said.
However, before the presidential election, outgoing President Mohamed Salih told the BBC that fears about the presence of Indian troops were exaggerated.
He said, “There are no militarily active foreign personnel in the Maldives. Currently, the Indian troops present in the country are under the operational command of the Maldives National Defense Force.”
But not just the aircraft, Muijju said he wants to review all the agreements recently signed by Maldives with India.
“We don’t know what’s in them. Even several MPs said they don’t give details about the contracts.”
Meanwhile, observers noted that the Chinese ambassador in Male rushed to congratulate him immediately after his victory in the presidential election.
Chinese President Xi Jinping also said seriously that he “attaches the development of bilateral relations and is ready to work with President-elect Muizhu to carry forward traditional friendship and broaden the hand of cooperation.”
Muizzu also did not forget to praise Chinese infrastructure projects in the Maldives; He recalled the Chinese investment in transforming the city of Male and increasing the amenities of the residents.
However, this leader is unwilling to accept himself as ‘pro-China’ as opposed to ‘pro-India’ position of Mohammed Salih.
“I am a ‘pro-Maldivian’. For me, Maldives comes first, our freedom comes first. I am not for or against any country,” Muizzu said.