Saturday, November 18, 2023
Delivering on a promise made upon assuming office, President Mohamed Muizzu of the Maldives Saturday formally called on India to pull out its troops from the strategically located archipelago, plunging New Delhi into valid concerns that Chinese forces may not fill the gap, Indian media reported.
During a meeting with the visiting Indian Minister of Earth Sciences, Kiren Rijiju, Muizzu made the request, specifically urging the recall of personnel assigned to operate three aircraft patrolling the maritime territory.
In a brief statement, Muizzu's office confirmed, "The President formally made the request when he met the Minister of Earth Sciences of India Kiren Rijiju, at the President's Office earlier today."
Although the statement did not provide a timeline or specify the number of personnel to be withdrawn, Muizzu had declared the removal of foreign troops as a priority during his inauguration the previous day.
He stated, "The country will not have any foreign military personnel in the Maldives," emphasising a commitment to respecting the red lines of other countries when it comes to security.
Muizzu clarified earlier in the week, speaking to AFP, that his intention was not to disrupt the regional balance by replacing Indian military presence with Chinese troops.
Despite underscoring strong ties with China, a key financial supporter of the Maldives, Muizzu assured that the move was not aimed at upsetting the geopolitical equilibrium.
Elected in September as the eighth president of the Maldives since gaining independence from Britain in 1965, Muizzu took office as a proxy for a pro-China predecessor who was incarcerated on corruption charges.
Known for its pristine beaches and luxurious resorts, the Maldives has evolved into a geopolitical hotspot due to its strategic location along global east-west shipping lanes.
During Muizzu's inauguration ceremony, China was represented by State Councillor Shen Yiqin, a special envoy of President Xi Jinping, highlighting China's continued interest in the region.