India agrees to withdraw soldiers from Maldives, says President Muizzu

By AFP
December 04, 2023

NEW DELHI: India’s government has agreed to withdraw its soldiers from the Maldives, the Indian Ocean archipelago’s President Mohamed Muizzu said on Sunday.

Muizzu won the presidential election in September, having campaigned to alter the Maldives’s “India first” policy and promising the removal of a small Indian military presence of some 75 personnel.

“In the discussions we had, the Indian government has agreed to remove Indian soldiers,” Muizzu told reporters. “We also agreed to set up a high level committee to solve issues related to development projects.”

Maldives' President Mohamed Muizzu speaks during the High-Level Segment for Heads of State and Government session at the United Nations climate summit in Dubai on December 1, 2023. — AFP

Muizzu made the remarks following engagements on the sidelines of the COP28 climate summit with Indian officials. India provides certain military equipment to the Maldives, assists in disaster response and has been helping build a naval dockyard there.

A senior Indian government official in New Delhi said discussions took place between India and the Maldives on the matter, and both sides recognised the importance of the assistance India provides. The Maldives “acknowledged the utility of these (Indian) platforms ... Discussions on how to keep them operational are ongoing. The core group that both sides have agreed to set up will look at details of how to take this forward,” said the official, without commenting directly on Muizzu’s remarks.

India’s ministry of foreign affairs did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Sunday. India and China have been vying for influence in the region, with the coalition that supports Muizzu considered to have a leaning more towards China.

Most of the Indian military personnel were in the Maldives to operate and manage two helicopters and a Dornier aircraft given to the Maldives by India. At his inauguration last month, Muizzu said he would ensure that his country has no foreign military presence.

He had made the request of Indian troop withdrawal to Kiren Rijiju, India’s minister for earth sciences, who represented India at the president’s inauguration.