In less than 24 hours after taking the oath of office, President Mohamed Muizzu formally requested the Government of India to “withdraw” its military personnel from the Maldives. The request was made during a courtesy call by India’s Union Minister, Kiren Rejiju, at the Maldivian President’s Office.
President Muizzu, a 45-year-old engineer-turned-politician, took the oath on Friday, defeating the India-friendly incumbent Ibrahim Mohamed Solih in the presidential runoff held in September.
Muizzu, a close associate of former Maldives President Abdulla Yameen, had indicated during the election campaign that the withdrawal of Indian military troops from the island nation is among the issues that need to be resolved by the two countries.
“At the meeting, President Muizzu formally requested the Government of India to withdraw its military personnel from the Maldives. 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,” stated the press release from the Maldivian President’s Office.
Muizzu said that he’s committed to ensuring that the Maldives remains “free” of any “foreign military presence” to preserve its independence and sovereignty. However, he did not specify any particular country in his inaugural address.
India’s Union Minister, Kiren Rejiju, represented the country at Muizzu’s inauguration ceremony, underscoring India’s “Neighbourhood First Policy.” During the courtesy call, Rejiju conveyed his best wishes to the President and expressed India’s commitment to strengthening bilateral cooperation and people-to-people ties.
“Privileged to call on President H.E. Dr. Mohamed Muizzu. Conveyed greetings from Hon’ble PM @NarendraModi and reiterated India’s commitment to further strengthen the substantive bilateral cooperation and robust people-to-people ties,” Rejiju posted on social media.
India and the Maldives share a history of cooperation, with India being the first to assist the Maldives during the 2004 Tsunami and the water crisis in Male in December 2014. The two nations also discussed the progress of various projects in the Maldives supported by India, including the Greater Male’ Connectivity Project (GMCP).
The Maldives, located in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), holds strategic importance for India due to its proximity to the west coast and its position at the hub of commercial sea lanes in the Indian Ocean.