‘India Out’: Maldives tells India to pull out troops amid tense ties


Warning comes after President Muizzu’s recent China visit, signifying an upgrade in diplomatic ties with Beijing

President of the Maldives Mohamed Muizzu delivers a national statement at the World Climate Action Summit during the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, December 1, 2023.—Reuters 

Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu has issued a deadline for India to withdraw its military personnel from the island nation, emphasising that Indian troops must leave by March 15. 

This announcement comes in the wake of Muizzu’s recent state visit to China, marking an upgrade in diplomatic ties with Beijing.

Diplomatic tensions between India and Maldives escalated following derogatory comments made by Maldivian ministers against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, leading to their dismissal. President Muizzu, in response to the criticism, asserted, “We may be small, but no one has the licence to bully us.”

Abdulla Nazim Ibrahim, the public policy secretary at the President’s Office, stressed, “Indian military personnel cannot stay in the Maldives. This is the policy of President Dr Mohamed Muizzu and that of this administration.” Reports indicate the presence of approximately 88 Indian troops in Maldives.

The call for the withdrawal of Indian troops aligns with President Muizzu’s election promise and his “India Out” campaign. Both nations have established a high-level core group to negotiate the troop withdrawal, with the group’s inaugural meeting held at the Foreign Ministry Headquarters in Male’.

During the meeting, discussions covered bilateral cooperation, ongoing development projects, and finding a mutually workable solution to ensure the continued operation of Indian aviation platforms providing humanitarian services in Maldives. The next meeting of the High-Level Core Group is scheduled to take place in India.

The diplomatic shift from the previous “India First” policy under Ibrahim Solih to the current “India Out” stance is not abrupt. Abdullah Yameen, Solih’s predecessor, initiated an anti-India campaign in 2013, aligning Maldives closer to China. In contrast, Solih maintained friendly ties with India during his tenure from 2018 to 2023.

President Muizzu, while seeking a balance between India and China, has affirmed that he does not intend to replace Indian military personnel with Chinese troops. 

The evolving diplomatic scenario raises concerns about China’s economic interests and the potential impact of its debt trap policy on the island nation.



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