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Maldives asks India to withdraw its troops

By Shakilur Rahman

New Delhi, Nov. 19: Maldives has officially requested India to withdraw its troops. This request was made by the newly appointed President of Maldives Mohammed Muizzu during his meeting with Indian Earth Sciences Minister Kiren Rijiju after taking oath. About 70 Indian soldiers are present in Maldives, who help in the operation of radar and aircraft.

External Affairs Ministry sources said a viable solution was being discussed between the two governments. Muizzu formally made the request when he met Union Minister of India Kiren Rijiju at the President’s Office, the announcement said. Kiren Rijiju had reached Male to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Maldives President Muizzu.

Maldives’ new President has started an anti-India rant as soon as he took oath. Soon after the swearing-in, the office of Maldivian President Muizzu on Saturday announced that his government has officially asked India to withdraw its military presence from the country. The withdrawal of foreign troops from the country has been one of the main promises of Mohammed Muizzu in the Maldives elections. He reiterated his pledge to do so in his first address to the nation after taking oath on Friday.

Without naming India, Muizzoo said, “There will be no foreign military personnel from the country in Maldives.” He said, “When it comes to our security, I will draw a red line. Maldives will also respect the red lines of other countries.”

“The President noted that at the Presidential Election held in September, the Maldivian people had given him a strong mandate to make the request to India and expressed the hope that India will honour the democratic will of the people of the Maldives,” the statement from the President’s Office said.

Indian government sources said that when Rijiju met Muizzu, the Maldivian President raised the issue of Indian military personnel present in Maldives operating aircraft for medical evacuation and anti-drug trafficking purposes.

When Maldivian President Muizzu raised the issue of withdrawal of Indian troops with India’s Minister Kiren Rijiju, at the same time, a Dornier aircraft from India saved the life of a Maldivian citizen. The Maldivian Army itself gave information about this incident. Maldives National Defense Force tweeted that on 18 November, Maldives National Defense Forces Central Area Command rescued a 36-year-old woman in critical condition from Atoll Hospital in Malé at 17.40 hours by MDRF Dornier aircraft.

Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s special envoy Shen Yikin paid a courtesy call on President Muizu. It is supposed that Muizzu is a supporter of China. He stressed that his intention was not to disturb the regional balance by deploying Chinese troops in place of the Indian Army. He also said, “Maldives is too small to get embroiled in geopolitical rivalries. I am not much interested in involving Maldivian foreign policy in this.” The South China Morning Post published a story with the headline that Maldives expects a surge in investment with its new China-friendly president as Beijing looks to take advantage of the opportunity.

According to the statement, Muizzu and Rijiju also reviewed the progress of implementation of various projects in Maldives with India’s cooperation. It said Muizzu and Rijiju concluded the meeting with a fresh commitment to “strengthen” bilateral relations between the two countries.

Defense Minister Rajnath Singh visited the Maldives in May, during which he handed over a fast patrol ship and a landing craft to the island nation. In August last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and then Maldives President Solih launched the India-funded Greater Male Connectivity Project, billed as the largest infrastructure initiative in the island nation. Under the Greater Male Connectivity Project (GMCP) project, a 6.74 km long bridge and causeway link will be built to connect the capital city Male with the adjacent islands of Villingli, Gulhifalhu and Thilafushi. Maldives is also one of the biggest beneficiaries of India’s Neighborhood First policy.


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