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COP 28: Maldives President Confirms India Agrees For Indian Troops Withdrawal

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Two days after meeting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the fringes of the COP28 Climate Summit in Dubai, Maldives President Mohammad Muizzu claimed on Sunday that India had granted the new Maldives government’s request to remove roughly 75 Indian military personnel stationed on the islands to work on humanitarian operations. The move will disappoint New Delhi, which has been pushing the Maldives to consider the value of Indian personnel in the Maldives from the “correct perspective.” Muizzu demanded the move during his “India Out” election campaign slogan.

The Maldives President’s office tweeted, quoting Muizzu’s press conference earlier in the day after his return from the United Arab Emirates, “The Indian government has assured the people of Maldives that it will respect their decision regarding the withdrawal of Indian troops from Maldives.”

Muizzu’s assertion was refuted by government sources on Sunday, who stated that the talks were still “ongoing” and that the “core group” that was formed following the Modi-Muizzu meeting would investigate all relevant factors before determining whether or not the 75 Indian naval personnel who are presently employed in the Maldives on Indian projects should remain.

Regarding the development, the Ministry of External Affairs remained silent. Sources claimed that during the leaders’ meeting in Dubai, the topic of India’s platforms and staff members who work on Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) programs was “briefly discussed.”

Notably, at the conclusion of President Muizzu’s first meeting with Prime Minister Modi on Friday, the topic was not specifically addressed in the readouts released by both governments. When the Maldives Presidency stated that they discussed cooperation on matters of “concern and sensitivities for the people of Maldives,” it was implying that the topic of Indian troops in the Maldives was being discussed. According to Muizzu’s Sunday statement, however, despite the meeting with Modi, he is unwilling to back down from his demand. Since Muizzu won the October presidential election and replaced the more India-friendly former president Ibu Solih, the issue of Indian personnel has been contentious. Muizzu has reiterated his campaign promise to “ensure the Maldives’ sovereignty.”

According to government sources, one “important segment” of the bilateral development partnership is the HADR operations, which currently require Indian personnel to operate and maintain.

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