The recently inaugurated Maldives President, Mohamed Muizzu, declared that there should be zero foreign presence on Maldives soil. After meeting with Union Minister Kiren Rijiju, he formally requested that the New Delhi Parliament withdraw military personnel from the island nation. Indian government officials stated that the Maldives and India will continue to work on feasible solutions as the Indian military presence is in the best interests of the Maldives.
The Indian military has stationed about 70 personnel on the small island nation. They overlook the functioning of India-sponsored aircraft and surveillance radars. Indian warships also patrol along the coast of the Maldives economic zone.
President Muizzu has also acknowledged the immense help that two Indian helicopters provided during a medical emergency. The small group of Indian soldiers has been stationed on the island for several years now. Expelling the military would uproot their entire lives.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) stated that India and the Maldives will take joint actions beneficial to both nations. The Indian presence on the small island nation has helped it combat several obstacles, such as improving public welfare, providing humanitarian and disaster relief, and intervening in illegal maritime conflicts on behalf of the nation.
The Maldives is a small country, just about one-fifth of the size of New Delhi. However, the island is home to over 5 lakh citizens and hundreds of thousands of tourists annually. Thus, the region is gaining significant importance in the geopolitics of the Indian Ocean region.
The primary players in Indian Ocean geopolitics are India and China. With the Maldives rising in importance, it has become a geopolitical hotspot. India and China have significantly invested in the region to prime its geopolitical outlook. The Maldives administration stated that it wants to cooperate with both nations; however, it is too small to be involved in the geopolitical rivalry.
President Muizzu is the successor to former Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. Under President Solih’s rule, India and the Maldives strengthened ties. Muizzu was also the former mayor of Male and was close with President Abdulla Yameen. Yameen had strong political ties with Beijing and wished to continue further if he won the 2023 elections. Although he could not contest the elections, he nominated Muizzu in his place.
Following his election as president, Muizzu is left to play a balancing game between India and China. He stated that he does not wish to replace Indian troops with Chinese personnel. Muizzu will continue playing this game to maintain peaceful relations with both countries.
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