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Maldives vows to return Indian military personnel, signaling foreign policy shift

Male, Maldives, October 31:  The newly elected President of the Maldives, Mohamed Muizzu, has reaffirmed his commitment to removing Indian military personnel from the nation’s shores, making it the country’s top foreign policy priority.

Muizzu, who won the presidential election last month, defeating incumbent President Ibrahim Solih, has promised to engage in diplomatic consultations with India to facilitate the swift return of the few Indian military personnel currently stationed in the Maldives for training purposes.

Speaking in an online interview from the Maldivian capital, Male, Muizzu emphasized the significance of this foreign policy shift.

He stated, “The focus is not on the actual number of military personnel here; it is on not having any at all in the Maldives. We will discuss with the Indian government and find out a way forward for this.”

The Maldives, a nation known for its sun-kissed atolls and luxurious tourist resorts, has drawn the attention of rival Asian giants, India and China, who have invested heavily in infrastructure projects within the island chain as they vie for influence in the region.

The coalition supporting Muizzu has been associated with China; however, Muizzu continues his stance that his approach is not pro-China or against any specific country.

India has historically maintained cultural, financial, and security ties with the Maldives and has denied any intention of establishing a military presence on the islands.

To address concerns over Maldivian independence and sovereignty, President-elect Muizzu intends to review the details of an agreement signed with India, which pertains to the construction of a naval harbor for Maldivian forces.

Muizzu emphasized his desire to maintain positive relations with both India and China, as well as other countries, to explore growth opportunities. He is planning to establish special economic zones to boost economic growth and aims to double the number of tourists during his five-year term.

“I’m not pro-China or any country. The Maldives is and will not be anti or pro in any country. My government will always be for the Maldives. The Maldives will benefit immensely from having strong and vibrant relationships with the advanced economies as well as with emerging economic powers,” Muizzu concluded.

Muizzu’s commitment to reassessing foreign policy underscores the changing dynamics in the region amid the great power competition between India and China.

While he claims to maintain a strategic balance between India and China, experts suggest that Muizzu’s election represents a significant setback for India’s efforts to counter the growing Chinese influence in the Indian Ocean Region.

On the other hand, as the transition of power unfolds, there are hopes that the relationship between India and the Maldives will remain stable. Therefore, amid this diplomatic uncertainty, India has decided to adopt a ‘wait, watch, and respond’ policy.

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