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Indian Troops to Exit Maldives by May: Maldives President

Maldives
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New Delhi:  Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu, maintaining his anti-India stance, declared in front of the parliament today that his island nation will not permit “any country to interfere with or undermine our sovereignty.” As per the local media reports, he stated that New Delhi and Male have reached a consensus for Indian troops to withdraw from The Maldives by May 10.

President Muizzu declared that Indian troops stationed on one of the nation’s three aviation platforms would depart by March 10 and those stationed on the other two by May 10. The agreement between Maldives and India to chart the nation’s inner and underwater charts will not be renewed. According to the President, “We will not permit any nation to impede or threaten our sovereignty.”

The MDP and Democrats, the two major opposition parties, abstained from President Muizzu’s speech. Out of the 56 parliamentarians, only 24 came to the speech.

In the Parliament with 87 seats, both parties have 56 MPs (43+13). To become administrators in the Muizzu administration, seven MPs tendered their resignations. Just 24 of the 80 MPs in attendance for the President’s speech were present at the time. According to local reports, it’s the largest boycott in the history of the Maldivian parliament. Democrats and the MDP are also drafting a plan to remove President Muizzu from office.

India has 87 troops in the island nation to provide humanitarian aid and medical evacuation. President Muizzu’s campaign had focused on reducing Indian influence in affairs of The Maldives and the presence of Indian soldiers emerged as a major point of contention ever since he took over.

Reuters had earlier reported that the two sides had reached agreement on withdrawal of troops at a meeting in New Delhi.

The External Affairs Ministry has said the two countries “agreed on a set of mutually workable solutions to enable continued operation of Indian aviation platforms” that provide humanitarian services to the Maldives. The soldiers, Reuters reported, will be replaced by civilians.

President Muizzu’s anti-India stance has drawn criticism at home, especially in the light of the new government’s outreach to China. Soon after taking over, President Muizzu visited China and met its President Xi Jinping. This was a major shift from The Maldives’ traditionally close ties with India, and also a significant development in view of the geopolitical equations in the Indian Ocean region.

Opposition parties MDP and The Democrats recently issued a joint statement, describing the shift in the island nation’s foreign policy as “extremely detrimental”.

The statement stated that “alienating any development partner, and especially the country’s most long-standing ally, will be extremely detrimental to the long-term development of the country” . It further emphasized that “stability and security in the Indian Ocean is vital to the stability and security of the Maldives” .

President Muizzu has been urged to apologize to India by a different party. The head of the Jumhoori Party, Gasuim Ibrahim, has stated that in order to repair relations, the president of the Maldives should formally apologize to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and India and pursue “diplomatic reconciliation”.

Mr Ibrahim’s remarks referred to President Muizzu’s statement soon after he returned from China. “We may be small, but this doesn’t give them the licence to bully us,” he had said, without naming any country. The remark was seen as a swipe at India.

Asked about the strained ties, External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar has said neighbours need each other. “History and geography are very powerful forces. There is no escape from that,” he has said.

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