New Delhi, November 18
The Government of Maldives has formally requested India to withdraw its military personnel from the Maldives.
“Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu formally made the request when he met Minister of Earth Sciences Kiren Rijiju at the President’s Office earlier on Saturday,’’ said a terse release from Male.
India claims that it has a few military personnel in the Maldives to operate two Dhruv advanced light helicopters, besides a Dornier aircraft. It says these personnel are there because the condition for deploying these military assets for surveillance and search and rescue will be operated by Indian military personnel. India also trains Maldives personnel at its military facilities.
Muizzu is making good on his pre-election promise to remove foreign military presence from Maldives.
He had defeated India-friendly Ibrahim Solih in the presidential runoff held in September this year.
India is seeking to minimise the blowback from the election of a pro-China President candidate by emphasising its strategic location as the first responder to any humanitarian upheaval in the island nation such as the help extended during the Covid pandemic or the action by the Indian armed forces to avert a coup in the Maldives in 1987.
It remains to be seen whether the Maldives will disengage from India-initiated security measures for the neighbourhood. Involving Bangladesh, Seychelles, Sri Lanka and Mauritius besides Maldives, the initiative was started by then National Security Adviser (NSA) Shiv Shankar Menon and accelerated by the present NSA Ajit Doval.
Rijiju posted on X after the meeting with Muizzu that he had conveyed greetings from PM Narendra Modi and reiterated India's commitment to further ``strengthen the substantive bilateral cooperation and robust people-to-people ties.'' Rijiju was accompanied by Munu Mahawar, India's High Commissioner to Maldives. The new Maldivian Foreign Minister Moosa Zameer was also present on the occasion.
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