Amid a low-key diplomatic row, Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu has asked India to withdraw its military personnel from his country by March 15. This comes days after Muizzu’s high-profile state visit to China.
According to the latest government figures, there are 88 Indian military personnel in the Maldives.
In a press briefing, Abdulla Nazim Ibrahim, the public policy secretary at the President’s Office, said that President Muizzu has formally asked India to withdraw its military personnel by March 15, the SunOnline newspaper reported.
“Indian military personnel cannot stay in the Maldives. This is the policy of President Dr Mohamed Muizzu and that of this administration,” he added.
A high-level core group to negotiate the withdrawal of troops held its first meeting at the Foreign Ministry Headquarters in Male’ on Sunday morning. The meeting was also attended by Indian High Commissioner Munu Mahawar, the report said. Nazim confirmed the meeting and said the agenda for the meeting was the request to withdraw troops by March 15.
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India’s External Affairs Ministry said both sides held discussions on wide ranging issues related to bilateral cooperation towards identifying steps to enhance the partnership, including expediting the implementation of ongoing development cooperation projects.
“Both sides also held discussions on finding mutually workable solution to enable continued operation of Indian aviation platforms that provide humanitarian and medvac services to the people of Maldives. It was agreed to hold the next meeting of the High Level Core Group in India on a mutually convenient date,” it added.
Soon after taking oath as the President of Maldives on November 17 last year, Muizzu, who is regarded as a pro-China leader, formally requested India to withdraw its military personnel from his country, saying the Maldivian people have given him a “strong mandate” to make this request to New Delhi.
The request for the withdrawal of Indian military personnel comes amid a row between the two nations in the backdrop of derogatory comments posted by three deputy ministers of the Muizzu government against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Muizzu suspended the three ministers after their social media postings, which stirred concern in India and calls for a boycott by Indian tourists who ranked highest in numbers followed by Russia. Chinese tourists figured third.
During his just-concluded state visit to China, Muizzu sought to align Maldives closer to Beijing. Speaking to the press on Saturday after returning from China, President Muizzu indirectly attacked India. Without naming any country, he said, “We may be small, but that doesn’t give you the license to bully us.