Maldives calls for withdrawal of Indian troops, straining neighbourly relations

The Maldives has officially requested the withdrawal of Indian troops from its territory by March 15th, as confirmed by an official statement on January 14th, following a diplomatic row between the two nations. This move is expected to further strain the relationship between the South Asian neighbours.

President Mohamed Muizzu, who won the nation’s presidential election in 2023, had campaigned on a promise to shift away from the Maldives’ “India first” policy, especially in a region where both New Delhi and Beijing vie for influence. Currently, a small contingent of approximately 80 Indian soldiers is stationed in the Indian Ocean archipelago. Their primary roles include supporting the military equipment provided by New Delhi to the Maldives and assisting in humanitarian activities within the region.

During discussions held at the foreign ministry involving senior delegations from both countries, President Muizzu’s administration proposed the removal of Indian troops by March 15th. Ahmed Nazim, the Policy Director at the President’s Office, stated, “In this meeting, on behalf of President Muizzu, the Maldivian delegation proposed the removal of Indian troops by March 15. This date was proposed in the agenda by the government, specifically by the president. These discussions are still ongoing.”

During his campaign, President Muizzu had expressed concerns about New Delhi’s significant influence, viewing it as a potential threat to Maldives’ sovereignty, and had committed to the removal of Indian troops.