Maldives President announces withdrawal of Indian troops in parliamentary address

President Muizzu, known for his pro-China stance and seen as a rival to New Delhi in economic and strategic matters, highlighted his pre-election promises to protect the freedom and sovereignty of the Maldivian people

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Satyam Singh
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Courtesy: ANI

Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu addressed the country's Parliament on Monday, reaffirming his commitment to withdraw Indian troops from the archipelago. He informed the Parliament that the first group of Indian troops would leave before March 10, with the remaining two contingents departing by May 10.

President Muizzu, known for his pro-China stance and seen as a rival to New Delhi in economic and strategic matters, highlighted his pre-election promises to protect the freedom and sovereignty of the Maldivian people. His presidential address outlined a commitment to fulfill the pledge made during his campaign, where he promised the withdrawal of foreign troops, reclaiming lost parts of Maldivian seas, and canceling any agreements that might compromise the nation's sovereignty.

Furthermore, Muizzu announced plans to enhance the capabilities of the Maldivian military to safeguard the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) 24 hours a day, reported Maldivian media.

The parliamentary address witnessed a boycott by at least 56 Members of Parliament, including 13 from the Democrats and 44 from the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP). The boycott was staged to protest against what they deemed as "undemocratic ways of the government" and accused Muizzu of having an anti-India pivot.

Understanding the escalation of India - Maldives relation

The strained relationship between India and the Maldives escalated last month when a Maldivian minister made controversial remarks against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his visit to Lakshadweep. Following the incident, Indian netizens criticized the minister and launched a boycott campaign against the Maldives, and celebrities joined calls to boycott visits to the Maldives, a nation heavily reliant on tourism. Within three weeks of the boycott, India became the fifth-largest market for the Maldives.

Last week, after discussions between New Delhi and Male, the Maldives foreign ministry announced an agreement that India will replace military personnel in one of the three aviation platforms by March 10, 2024. India had been a longstanding ally of the Maldives until Muizzu assumed power.

Muizzu seeks China's support

In a recent visit to China, Muizzu sought to strengthen ties with the communist nation, requesting an increase in Chinese tourism. This move was perceived as a response to India's stance and the economic repercussions of the tourism boycott. The evolving dynamics in the Indian-Maldivian relationship continue to draw attention, with Muizzu's actions reflecting a shift away from India towards other geopolitical partners.