President Muizzu Calls for Indian Military Withdrawal from Maldives

Analyzing the Evolution from Pro-India Leaders to China's BRI and President Muizzu's Bold Move

India and the Maldives share a history of diplomatic ties that is both enduring and intricate. This Indian Ocean island, while a strategic partner for India, has also been a focal point of geopolitical contention, particularly with China. The recent twist in this narrative comes from Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu, who has called for the withdrawal of India’s military personnel from the nation, injecting a fresh layer of complexity into their relationship. In this exploration, we delve into the context propelling this request, unravel the implications for both nations and contemplate the challenges that lie on the horizon.

President Muizzu, who came to power in October 2023, requested the withdrawal of Indian military personnel during a meeting with India’s Earth Sciences Minister Kiren Rijiju. He cited the democratic mandate given to him by the Maldivian people, who supported his ‘India Out’ campaign.

The campaign, which started around 2020, accused the previous government of allowing a large Indian military presence in the Maldives. Former President Ibrahim Solih denied this claim.

The exact number of Indian troops in the Maldives is unknown. Still, they are involved in various operations, such as medical evacuation and counter-drug trafficking. President Muizzu acknowledged the importance of these operations and expressed his willingness to continue cooperation with India on other projects, such as the Greater Male Connectivity Project (GMCP), which is funded by India’s grant of $100 million and a Line of Credit of $400 million.

The current plea from the Maldives for the withdrawal of Indian military personnel doesn’t come as a surprise; it mirrors a notable shift in the island’s political and geopolitical landscape. The Maldives has long been a hotbed of regional rivalry, serving as a contested arena for India and China. Traditionally, India has considered the Maldives within its sphere of influence, fostering alliances with leaders like Mohamed Nasheed, elected in 2008. However, the succeeding leader, Abdulla Yameen, aligned with China, embracing the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2014. Yameen’s electoral defeat by Solih in 2018 marked a perceived victory for India, leading to the rekindling of close ties between the two nations.

President Muizzu’s election in 2023 as the leader of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) changed the equation again. He campaigned on the ‘India Out’ slogan and appealed to the nationalist sentiments of the Maldivian people. He also signaled his intention to balance the relations with India and China and to pursue an independent foreign policy.

The Maldives President’s request for the withdrawal of Indian military personnel is a significant development in India-Maldives relations. It reflects the changing political and geopolitical dynamics in the island nation and the challenges of managing regional alliances. India and the Maldives will have to navigate the nuances of cooperation and the ‘India Out’ sentiment and find a way to maintain a stable and mutually beneficial relationship.

Alok Verma

Alok Verma is an accomplished International Reporter at IndiaFocus with a deep-seated passion for global affairs and cross-border stories. With an impressive track record in international journalism, Alok is dedicated… More »

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