The newly sworn-in president of the Maldives, Mohamed Muizzu, has formally urged India to withdraw its troops from the country during a meeting with Minister Kiren Rijiju, on Saturday, fulfilling one his most prominent election promises on his first day in office.
The request was specifically for the recall of Indian military personnel stationed on the island to facilitate the operation of three aircraft gifted by India for patrolling maritime territory.
"The President formally made the request when he met the Minister of Earth Sciences of India Kiren Rijiju, at the President’s Office earlier today," stated Muizzu's office. The statement did not provide details regarding the timeline or the number of personnel to be withdrawn.
During the meeting, Muizzu reportedly expressed gratitude for the Indian military's contribution to medical evacuations of Maldivian citizens and their efforts in monitoring and combating drug trafficking.
Muizzu's party, which has Former President Abdulla Yameen as its preeminent leader, had run a campaign, labeled 'India Out', to remove Indian military personnel from the country if elected to power.
During his presidency from 2013 to 2018, Yameen drew criticism for aligning the Maldives excessively with China, resulting in strained relations with India. Experts believe that, with Yameen exerting considerable influence on policy behind the scenes, the country is likely to tilt further towards China.
Sources suggest that discussions between Male and New Delhi will focus on finding workable solutions for continued cooperation using the provided aircraft. Among other uses, the aircraft have been employed for evacuating Maldivian citizens in remote islands who require urgent medical care.
President Muizzu emphasized his commitment to not having the presence of military personnel from another country in the Maldives, stating, "When it comes to our security, I will draw a red line. The Maldives will respect the red lines of other countries too."
He clarified that his intention is not to upset the regional balance by replacing Indian military presence with Chinese troops, as reiterated earlier in an interview with AFP.
In October this year, Muizzu had expressed his aim to expedite the return of Indian military personnel while emphasizing his dedication to strengthening investment ties with both India and China to foster economic growth.
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