The new president of the Maldives asks India to remove its military presenceNovember 19, 2023
In a significant diplomatic move, the newly-elected President of the Maldives, Mohamed Muizzu, has called on India to withdraw its military presence from the tiny Indian Ocean archipelago. President Muizzu, who won the presidential election in September by defeating Ibrahim Solih, had campaigned on a platform that included altering the Maldives’ “India first” policy and pledged to remove the small Indian military contingent of approximately 75 personnel.
This request comes amid the ongoing geopolitical competition between India and China for influence in the region. President Muizzu’s coalition, seen as leaning more towards China, has garnered support, and the recent move reflects a strategic shift in the Maldives’ foreign policy. The president’s office emphasized that Muizzu’s request aligns with the democratic will of the Maldivian people, who provided him with a strong mandate.
India, a key player in the Indian Ocean region, has not immediately responded to the request for comment from the Maldives. The Indian government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has been keenly monitoring developments in the region, especially as the Maldives maneuvers its foreign policy orientation.
During his inauguration on Friday, President Muizzu reiterated his commitment to ensuring that the Maldives remains free from any foreign military presence. The request for the withdrawal of Indian military forces was formally made to Kiren Rijiju, India’s Minister for Earth Sciences, who represented India at the inauguration ceremony.
In response, a senior Indian government official stated that the two governments have agreed to engage in discussions to find workable solutions for continued cooperation. However, the official did not clarify whether India is willing to comply with the request and withdraw its military personnel from the Maldives.
The situation underscores the complex geopolitical dynamics at play in the Indian Ocean region, with both India and China actively seeking to expand their influence. The Maldives, strategically positioned in the Indian Ocean, has become a focal point in this power struggle. As President Muizzu charts a new course for the Maldives’ foreign policy, the outcome of the discussions between the two nations will undoubtedly have broader implications for regional stability and the balance of power in the Indian Ocean. The international community will be closely watching how India responds to this unexpected request from the Maldives and the subsequent developments that unfold in this evolving geopolitical landscape.