India-Maldives tension: Maldives urges Indian troop withdrawal

Maldives formally urges India to withdraw troops by March 15, marking a significant shift in the island nation’s foreign policy.


The Maldives has formally requested India to withdraw its troops from the country by March 15, intensifying diplomatic strains between the neighboring South Asian nations.

President Mohamed Muizzu, elected last year on a platform to recalibrate the Maldives’ foreign policy away from an “India first” stance, aims to assert sovereignty amidst regional influence competition between New Delhi and Beijing.

This position had lead to different reactions, with Indian travel platform EaseMyTrip suspending flight bookings to the Maldives, considerably affecting tourism, the main economic activity of the islands.

Approximately 80 Indian soldiers currently stationed on the archipelago assist with military equipment support and engage in humanitarian activities. During recent talks at the foreign ministry involving senior delegations from both countries, Muizzu’s administration proposed the withdrawal of Indian troops by the specified date.

Ahmed Nazim, Policy Director at the President’s Office, clarified the president’s position, emphasizing that Indian troops cannot remain in the Maldives, aligning with Muizzu’s election pledge and the public sentiment. Ongoing discussions between the nations revolve around this proposal.

India’s foreign ministry acknowledged comprehensive bilateral discussions but remained silent on the soldiers’ withdrawal issue. The statement highlighted efforts to find mutually agreeable solutions for the continued operation of Indian aviation platforms providing humanitarian and medevac services in the Maldives.

Muizzu’s recent state visit to Beijing witnessed an elevation in Sino-Maldivian relations, culminating in the establishment of a “comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership.”

This development paves the way for increased Chinese investments in the Maldives. Notably, the Maldives carries a debt of $1.37 billion owed to China, constituting approximately 20% of its public debt, according to World Bank data. The evolving dynamics underscore shifting geopolitical alignments in the region.

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