Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu has asked India to withdraw its military personnel from his country by March 15, a senior official here said on Sunday, as reported by news agency PTI. This comes nearly two months after Male sought their removal. As per the latest government figures, there are 88 Indian military personnel in the Maldives. The latest development comes amid the diplomatic row between the two nations over the disparaging social media posts by some Maldivian ministers and government officials.
In a press briefing, the public policy secretary at the President’s Office, Abdulla Nazim Ibrahim said that Muizzu has formally asked India to withdraw its military personnel by March 15, PTI reported, citing the SunOnline newspaper. “Indian military personnel cannot stay in the Maldives. This is the policy of President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu and that of this administration,” he said.
A high-level core group has been set up by the Maldives and India to negotiate the withdrawal of troops. According to PTI, the group held its first meeting at the Foreign Ministry Headquarters in Male’ on Sunday morning. The meeting was also attended by Indian High Commissioner Munu Mahawar, the report said.
Confirming the meeting, Nazim stated that the agenda was the request to withdraw troops by March 15. The Indian government, however, did not immediately confirm the media report or comment on it.
After taking oath as the President of Maldives last year, Muizzu made a formal request to India to withdraw its military personnel from his country, saying the Maldivian people have given him a “strong mandate” to make this request to New Delhi, as reported by PTI.
Meanwhile on Saturday, Muizzu took a swipe at New Delhi, saying his country may be small but that “doesn’t give them the licence to bully us.” He added that Maldives is not in anyone’s backyard and is an independent country.
Muizzu said, “This ocean does not belong to a specific country. This (Indian) Ocean also belongs to all countries situated in it”. He further stated, “We aren’t in anyone’s backyard. We are an independent and sovereign state,” as quoted by PTI, citing the Maldives Sun Online portal.
“We may be small, but this doesn’t give them the licence to bully us,” Muizzu said. The Maldives PM also asserted that the Maldives is one of the countries with the biggest share of this ocean. Without naming any country, Muizzu said that though his country has small islands in this ocean, it has a vast exclusive economic zone of 900,000 square km.