First group of Indian troops in Maldives to be sent back
Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu on Monday said that India and Maldives have agreed to send back the first group of Indian troops deployed in Maldives before March 10 this year, according to Maldivian media reports.
In his first presidential statement at the opening of the last session of the 19th Parliament, he said that talks are ongoing with India to send back their troops.
He said that the Indian Army will move the military personnel from one of the three aviation platforms in the Maldives by March 10, 2024. He said that the military personnel of remaining two platforms will leave by May 10, according to reports.
Muizzu said that his biggest presidential promise is to protect the freedom and sovereignty of the people of Maldives. He said that the support of a large majority of the people of Maldives for his government was a "pledge to withdraw foreign troops from Maldives, recover the lost part of Maldives seas and cancel any agreement made by the state that could undermine Maldives sovereignty."
In his address at the Parliament, Mohamed Muizzu announced that he will establish the ability of the Maldives military to maintain the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) 24 hours a day.
He noted that the main principle his government will hold in running the affairs of Maldives is to give priority to the people and the country or the policy of 'Pro Maldives'.
Only 24 Maldives Members of Parliament (MPs) attended the opening sitting of the People's Majlis where President Mohamed Muizzu delivered his first presidential address.
The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and the Democrats decided to boycott the sitting due to the "undemocratic ways of the government." A total of 56 MPs boycotted the opening sitting. This includes 13 MPs from the Democrats and 44 MPs from the MDP.
Notably, the removal of Indian troops in the Maldives was the main campaign of Muizzu's party. Currently, there are around 70 Indian troops, along with Dornier 228 maritime patrol aircraft and two HAL Dhruv helicopters, stationed in the Maldives.
On the second day of assuming office, Muizzu officially requested the Indian government to withdraw its military personnel from the Maldives. In December last year, Muizzu claimed that, after talks with the Indian government, an agreement was reached to withdraw Indian military personnel.
Last week, the second meeting of the high-level core group between the Maldives and India took place in New Delhi.
"Both sides agreed that the Government of India will replace the military personnel in one of the three aviation platform by 10 March 2024, and will complete replacing military personnel in the other two platforms by 10 May 2024," the Maldives Foreign Ministry stated.
The Maldives said that both sides reviewed the existing bilateral cooperation to improve and enhance the partnership in the fields of defence and security cooperation, economic, and development partnership.
It was also agreed that the third meeting of the high-level core group will be held in Male on a mutually agreeable date during the last week of February. Notably, the Ministry of External Affairs stated in its statement that both India and Maldives have agreed on a set of mutually workable solutions to enable continued operation of Indian aviation platforms that provide humanitarian and medical services to the people of the Maldives.
It said that the two sides continued their discussions on wide-ranging issues related to bilateral cooperation towards identifying steps to enhance the partnership, including expediting the implementation of ongoing development cooperation projects.