India-Maldives Relations Strained: Maldives Urges Withdrawal of Troops by March 15

Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed has granted India an extension until March 15th to withdraw its military personnel. This information was shared by the spokesperson of the Maldivian President’s office, Abdulla Nazeem Ibrahim, during a media interaction on Sunday. The decision follows the establishment of a high-level committee for discussions between the Maldives foreign ministry and the Indian High Commissioner Munu Mahawar, who was also present at the first meeting of the committee held on Sunday.

Maldives media reports that currently, there are 88 Indian soldiers stationed in the Maldives. A high-level committee has been formed to discuss the removal of troops between both countries. In the first meeting, India’s High Commissioner Munu Mahawar was also present.

While there has been no official statement from the foreign ministries of either country on this matter, President Nasheed had earlier mentioned during COP28 that the decision to withdraw Indian troops stationed in the Maldives had been taken. He stated that discussions had taken place with the Indian government, and there was an agreement for the withdrawal.

The extension granted suggests ongoing diplomatic discussions between the two nations. The matter is crucial not only for military aspects but also for the ongoing developmental projects in the region. The establishment of a high-level committee signifies a diplomatic approach to address the concerns on both sides and work towards a resolution.

Indian soldiers stationed in the Maldives have been deployed for search-and-rescue operations and medical evacuation, utilizing aircraft, including two helicopters provided by India in 2010 and 2013, as well as a small aircraft in 2020. These deployments were made to strengthen the Maldivian capabilities for operations such as search and rescue, and transportation of patients.

Under the leadership of former President Abdulla Yameen, the opposition accused the then-incumbent President Solih of adopting an “India First” policy. India, on its part, clarified that the aircraft stationed in the Maldives were intended for search-and-rescue operations and medical evacuations. In 2021, the Maldivian military acknowledged the presence of over 70 Indian soldiers in the country, stating that they were there for the operations and support related to the deployed aircraft.

Subsequently, the opposition in the Maldives launched the “India Out” campaign, demanding the withdrawal of Indian military personnel from the country. The campaign raised concerns about the Maldives’ sovereignty and triggered debates about the continued presence of Indian forces. It should be noted that these events reflect the complex dynamics of geopolitical relations in the Indian Ocean region.

Maldivian People Wish Indian Soldiers to Leave – President Muizzu Responds

In a January interview with Times of India, President Muizzu was asked about the sentiments surrounding the presence of Indian soldiers in the Maldives. The question aimed to understand whether India is concerned about removing its military personnel and the potential impact on Indian assets, naval helicopters, and aircraft platforms.

President Muizzu responded by emphasizing the clear desire of the Maldivian people to see foreign soldiers out of their country. He acknowledged that currently, India is the only country with its military personnel stationed in the Maldives. The President stated that the people of Maldives, in line with their democratic aspirations, expressed a wish for the withdrawal of foreign soldiers. He affirmed his confidence that India, being the world’s largest democracy, would respect the democratic will of the Maldivian people.

Furthermore, President Muizzu suggested that the bilateral relations between the Maldives and India are strong enough to address such matters through diplomatic dialogue. He expressed certainty that the robust diplomatic ties between the two nations could handle discussions around this sensitive issue.

The President concluded by reiterating his belief that India, as a country that values democracy, would understand and respect the wishes of the Maldivian people. He emphasized the potential for strengthening bilateral relations even further without a military presence, fostering a more resilient and respectful partnership.

India Out Campaign Launched in Maldives Two Years Ago

The “India Out” campaign was initiated in 2018, two years prior to the present time. During that period, President Abdulla Yameen, a close ally of China and a leader of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), lost the presidential election. Subsequently, he faced allegations of embezzlement involving a government fund of one billion dollars, leading to his imprisonment in 2019 for a five-year term. Ibrahim Mohamed Solih became the new President, adopting the “India First” policy.

Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Yameen’s sentence was temporarily lifted for medical reasons in November 2021. Facing various charges, he cleared his name in front of the public, and on November 30, he was released from prison. After this, he returned to active politics, engaging in election campaigns and making several public speeches, appealing to the people to inscribe “India Out” on the walls of their homes.

The “India Out” campaign gained momentum as Yameen sought to regain political influence. It is important to note that this operation was rooted in concerns about the presence of Indian military personnel in the Maldives and was aimed at challenging the incumbent government’s policy of maintaining close ties with India.

In October, Mohamed Yameen, a leader of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), won the presidential election held in the Maldives. Known for its strong ties with China, the PPM victory may pose challenges to the “India First” policy of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. Yameen’s win signals a potential shift in the Maldives’ stance towards India, which could impact bilateral relations.

The dynamics of the “India Out” campaign and the recent political developments in the Maldives underscore the evolving geopolitical landscape in the Indian Ocean region. These events raise questions about the future trajectory of India-Maldives relations and the broader strategic influence in the region.

Niyati Rao

Niyati Rao is a seasoned writer and avid consumer who specializes in crafting informative and engaging articles and product reviews. With a passion for research and a knack for finding the best deals, Niyati enjoys helping readers make informed decisions about their purchases.