“We don’t want any foreign military boots on Maldivian soil… I promised this to the people of the Maldives and I will live up to my promise from day one.”
Dr Mohamed Muizzu, who won the Maldives presidential election last month, is wasting no time in asking India to get its troops out of the country.
The president-elect, who is due to be sworn in later in November, told the BBC in an exclusive interview that he met the Indian ambassador a few days after his victory and “told him very clearly that every single Indian military personnel here should be removed”.
The Maldives has long been under India’s sphere of influence and Mr Muizzu’s demand is likely to trigger diplomatic tensions between Malé and Delhi.
In fact, when Mr Muizzu won the Maldives presidential poll, that was seen as a setback for India – especially as his opponent, the incumbent Ibrahim Mohamed Solih – had drawn his country closer to Delhi since taking over in 2018.
The alliance backing Mr Muizzu portrayed this relationship – strengthened by Mr Solih’s India-first policy – as a threat to the Maldives’ sovereignty and security.
Mr Muizzu’s alliance favours closer ties with China, which has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the Maldives in the form of loans and grants for infrastructure and development projects.
But India, which wants a foothold in the strategically located islands to monitor a key part of the Indian Ocean, has also provided about $2bn in development assistance to the country.
If its troops are forced to leave, it will be a blow for Delhi.
Source : BBC