Indian military exits from Maldives at President Mohamed Muizzu’s request

  • Indian troops withdrew from Maldives at the request of President Muizzu, who aims to strengthen ties with China. Tensions have risen between India and Maldives since Muizzu took office, leading to a shift in alliances and agreements with China.

First Published10 May 2024
Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu
Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu (AP)

India has exited its military from Maldives after a demand by President Mohamed Muizzu who is more focused on strengthening ties with China.

Indian troops, accompanied by two helicopters and an aircraft, were involved in marine surveillance, search-and-rescue, and medical evacuation operations on the islands.

The announcement coincided with a visit by Maldivian Foreign Minister Moosa Zameer to India, the first visit by a senior official since Muizzu took office in November last year.

Maldives anti-India stance: It shouldn't have been done, says FM Moosa Zameer

The foreign ministers of India and Maldives met in New Delhi on Thursday. Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar told his Maldives counterpart, Moosa Zameer, that India has been a key provider of development assistance, including infrastructure projects, medical care, and health facilities.

"It is in our common interest that we reach an understanding on how best we can take our relationship forward,” a statement by India's External Affairs Ministry quoted Jaishankar as saying.

Maldives foreign minister gets brutally trolled over India visit

Tensions between India and Maldives have grown since pro-China Muizzu came to power last year. He immediately asked India to withdraw troops from the archipelago island by May 10 and decided to replace them with civilians for those activities. At least 75 Indian military personnel were stationed in the Maldives.

Muizzu ran for president on a campaign theme of “India out,” accusing his predecessor of compromising national sovereignty by giving India too much influence.

After taking office, Muizzu visited China ahead of India and said Maldives’ small size is not a license for anyone to bully it.

Regional powers India and China are competing for influence in Maldives, which has a strategic location in the Indian Ocean.

Maldives Foreign Minister Moosa Zameer in India for bilateral discussions

Since coming into power, Muizzu's government has entered several agreements with China to boost economic ties and has sidelined India in several projects.

The Maldives signed a military assistance pact with China in March. Maldives has also allowed a Chinese research vessel to dock at its port, in India's backyard.

Maldives urges Indians to ‘be part of its tourism', says ‘economy depends…’

India's assistance to Maldives

India is helping Maldives to build 4,000 homes and has extended a $100 million line of credit to finance other infrastructure projects. The two countries have signed agreements for cooperation in cybersecurity, disaster management, and fishing zone forecast capacity.

In 2013, Maldives joined China’s “Belt and Road” initiative to build ports and highways to expand trade — and China’s influence — across Asia, Africa and Europe.

Last year, India began construction of the Greater Male connectivity project--a 6.7-kilometer (4.2-mile) -long bridge, connecting the capital city, Male, with the islands of Villingli, Gulhifalhu, and Thilafushi.

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