Indian troops exit Maldives following nudge from ‘pro-China’ leader

Lazy eyes listen


Dozens of Indian military personnel have departed the Maldives at the insistence of the country’s President Mohamed Muizzu, who is cultivating deeper ties with Beijing. New Delhi confirmed on Thursday that May 10 had been set earlier this year by Muizzu as the deadline for withdrawal.

The expulsion of Indian troops was one of Muizzu’s core promises during his presidential campaign in 2023. Soon after taking charge, the president asked New Delhi to withdraw approximately 80 military personnel who were largely tasked with manning two Dornier aircraft and a helicopter given to the Maldives by India for emergency evacuations. They are now being replaced with civilians.

“Both sides have been working together to ensure the continued operation” of the aircraft, India’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal said at a briefing. “Competent Indian technical personnel” are being flown to the islands to replace the soldiers, he added.

The development coincided with Maldivian Foreign Minister Moosa Zameer’s first-ever visit to New Delhi on Thursday, during which he discussed ties between the nations with his Indian counterpart Subrahmanyam Jaishankar. While Zameer appreciated India’s support in “advancing economic, trade, and investment ties between the two nations,” the Indian Foreign Minister remarked that the development of ties between the two nations were grounded in “mutual interests and reciprocal sensitivity.”

New Delhi recently approved its highest-ever export quotas for essential commodities, including eggs, potatoes, onions, sugar, rice, wheat flour and pulses, river sand and stone aggregates, to the Maldives for 2024-25 under a unique bilateral mechanism. Meanwhile, India’s projects in the Maldives have also gained speed over the last fiscal year despite the ongoing row, Reuters has reported, citing an Indian official who was not named.

The efforts include a $500 million project for roads and bridges around Maldives’ capital Male, and two airports worth nearly $130 million each on two of the archipelago’s islands, supported through a line of credit from India.

Tensions between the two nations further escalated in January, when New Delhi took exception to “derogatory comments” some Maldivian officials had made about the country’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Male distanced itself from the comments and temporarily suspended a minister involved. According to the Maldives Foreign Minister, “proper action” is being taken to ensure that such a situation is not repeated.