Dr. Mohamed Muizzu, who recently secured victory in the Maldives presidential election, is taking a firm stance on foreign military presence in the country. He has expressed his desire to see all Indian troops removed from the Maldives, emphasizing his commitment to the promise he made to the Maldivian people. In an exclusive interview with the BBC, Muizzu revealed that he had already communicated his stance to the Indian ambassador shortly after his electoral win.
Historically, the Maldives has been under India’s sphere of influence. However, Muizzu’s demand might strain diplomatic relations between Malé and Delhi. His election itself was perceived as a setback for India, especially considering his predecessor, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, had fostered closer ties with India during his tenure.
The coalition supporting Muizzu has criticized the strengthened relationship between the Maldives and India, viewing it as a threat to national sovereignty and security. Instead, they advocate for closer ties with China, which has heavily invested in the Maldives through loans and grants for various development projects.
India’s strategic interest in the Maldives is evident through its $2 billion development assistance to the nation. The potential removal of Indian troops would be a significant blow to Delhi’s regional influence.
The controversy surrounding “gifts” from India to the Maldives, including helicopters and aircraft, has fueled the campaign to remove Indian military presence. Despite India’s claims that these aircraft were intended for search and rescue missions, suspicions arose when it was revealed that around 75 Indian military personnel were stationed in the Maldives to operate and maintain these aircraft.
Muizzu’s concerns also stem from the escalating tensions between India and China. He believes the Maldives, given its small size, should avoid getting entangled in global power struggles.
While Muizzu’s stance is clear, the path ahead is complex. The president-elect aims to review all agreements signed between the Maldives and India in recent years. Furthermore, while he speaks highly of Chinese investments in the Maldives, he denies being exclusively pro-China or anti-India. His primary allegiance, he asserts, is to the Maldives and its independence.
The political landscape in the Maldives is evolving, with Muizzu keen on charting a new path for the nation, both domestically and internationally. His immediate challenge will be navigating the intricate dynamics of India-China relations and determining the best course for the Maldives’ future.