Maldives President asks India to withdraw troops by March 15

Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu has asked India to withdraw its troops from the island nation by March 15, 2024.

According to the latest government figures, there are 88 Indian military personnel in the Maldives.

“Indian military personnel cannot stay in the Maldives. This is the policy of President Dr Mohamed Muizzu and that of this administration,” he said.

Maldives and India have set up a high-level core group to negotiate the withdrawal of troops.

On Sunday, the group held its first meeting at the Foreign Ministry Headquarters in Male.

The meeting was also attended by Indian high commissioner Munu Mahawar, the report said.

Nazim confirmed the meeting and said the agenda for the meeting was the request to withdraw troops by March 15.

The Indian government did not immediately confirm the media report or comment on it.

The move comes amid diplomatic tensions between both the nations after three ministers from the Maldives government made “derogatory” remarks against Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he posted pictures from his recent visit to Lakshadweep.

The ministers were suspended by the Maldives government following an intense backlash over their remarks.

The controversy also triggered a massive Boycott Maldives campaign in India.

Notably, President Muizzu, who is a pro-China leader, had said that he will remove all Indian troops from the island during the campaigning for the presidential polls.

He even requested India to withdraw its forces immediately after taking oath as the President.

According to him, the Maldivian people have given him a “strong mandate” to make this request to New Delhi.

During his recent state visit to China, Muizzu sought to align Maldives closer to Beijing.

He even requested China to increase tourism to Maldives amid the backlash in India.

Also, he announced plans to reduce the country’s dependency on India, including securing imports of essential food commodities and medicine and consumables from other countries.

He said that no country has the right to exert influence over the domestic affairs of a country, regardless of its size.

Further, he vowed that he would not allow any external influence on the domestic affairs of the Maldives.

Male is also reviewing more than 100 bilateral agreements with New Delhi signed by the previous government.

(With inputs from PTI)