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Maldives Gives India Deadline To Pull Out Soldiers

Maldives Gives India Deadline To Pull Out Soldiers

A day after concluding a series of agreements during his visit to China, the President of the Maldives, Mohamed Muizzu, called on India to withdraw its nearly 100 troops by March 15. Despite New Delhi considering the Indian Ocean archipelago as falling within its sphere of influence, the Maldives has shifted towards China, which happens to be its largest external creditor.

The March 15 deadline for the troop withdrawal was established during discussions with Indian officials in the Maldives on Sunday, in line with President Muizzu’s longstanding election promise. Abdulla Nazim Ibrahim, Muizzu’s Public Policy Secretary, informed reporters that the president presented this request during the high-level committee meeting between the two nations, and the proposal is currently under consideration.

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India currently has around 89 personnel, including medical staff, deployed to operate three aircraft for patrolling the extensive maritime territory of the archipelago. President Muizzu, who assumed office in September, had pledged to remove Indian forces during his election campaign. Upon his arrival in the capital Male on Saturday, he asserted that while the Maldives may be small, it will not tolerate bullying. Emphasizing the nation’s independence, Muizzu stated, “We are not a country that is in the backyard of another country.”

Muizzu reiterated that China respects the Maldives’ territorial integrity policy, as expressed in the Dhivehi language. Despite the geopolitical competition between Beijing and New Delhi for influence, Muizzu’s election platform had centered on cultivating strong ties with China.

In a display of defiance, Muizzu stressed, “We may be small, but that doesn’t give you the license to bully us.” He clarified in English that this territorial integrity policy is respected by China. Importantly, Muizzu denied any intention of altering the regional balance by replacing Indian troops with Chinese forces.

The recent state visit to China marked Muizzu’s first since assuming the presidency. China’s state broadcaster, CCTV, reported that the agreements signed included various sectors such as infrastructure construction, medical care, improvement of people’s livelihoods, new energy sources, agriculture, and marine environmental protection.