Indian military begins exit from Maldives after pro-China president’s order

  • Maldives President orders Indian military personnel to leave, strengthening ties with China. India and China compete for influence in the island nation.

Updated12 Mar 2024
Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu asked India to withdraw its military from the archipelago island by 15 March
Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu asked India to withdraw its military from the archipelago island by 15 March(HT_PRINT)

Indian military personnel, operating surveillance aircraft in the Maldives, have begun to exit from Maldives after the Island country's newly elected President ordered them to withdraw forces.

According to a report by Mihaaru newspaper, 25 Indian troops deployed in the southernmost atoll of Addu had left Maldives on Sunday.

There was no official confirmation from either the Maldivian or Indian authorities, but Mihaaru said the Maldivian National Defence Force confirmed about the withdrawal of Indian troops.

Mint Explainer: What’s behind Maldives’ new defence pact with China

In January this year, Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu asked India to withdraw its military from the archipelago island by 15 March.

Muizzu swept into power in September on a campaign to reduce India’s influence on the island. Muizzu is known to share a closer relationship with China. Both India and China have alternatively vied for influence in the tiny island country, investing heavily in upgrading the Maldives’ infrastructure and extending loans to it.

‘No Indian troops to remain in Maldives, not even in civilian clothing,’ says president Mohamed Muizzu

Indian military stationed in Maldives

Maldives is India's key maritime neighbour in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and occupies a special place in its initiatives like SAGAR' (Security and Growth for All in the Region) and the Neighbourhood First Policy' of the Narendra Modi-led central government.

India-Maldives row: Why does Maldives want Indian troops out | Explainer

India operates and maintains radars, helicopters, and aircraft in the Maldives, some of which are used for medical evacuations. The Indian Navy also patrols Indian Ocean waters. Currently, there are around 70 Indian military personnel in the Maldives. As many as 24 military personnel manage the first helicopter, 25 personnel manage the Dornier aircraft, 26 manage the second helicopter and two look after maintenance and engineering.

What is Maldives President saying

Last week Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu asserted that no Indian military personnel, including those in civilian attire, will be permitted in his country after May 10.

Maldives and China have signed an agreement paving the way for greater Chinese military assistance to Male. Since assuming the office, Muizzu has been keen on strengthening ties with China and distancing from India.

India slips to 6th rank on Maldives Tourism charts as President Mohamed Muizzu welcomes China

As per Maldive's Ministry of Tourism report, India slipped to sixth spot on the 'Top 10 Markets' list of the island nation. Meanwhile, China has steadily climbed the chart from 10th to the first spot. China now makes the most — around 12 percent on March 5 — of the total tourist arrivals in Maldives.

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