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Thursday, February 29, 2024

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Maldives: President Muizzu Announces Sending Back Foreign (Indian) Troops; US Remains Silent

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Mohamed Muizzu, Maldives’ president-elect, announced his election by promising to remove all foreign troops from his strategically important island country.

In his first public speech since winning the runoff election on Saturday, Muizzu, 45, refrained from mentioning India, the only foreign country having a military presence in the island. At his rally in the island’s capital Male on Monday night, he said, “We will be sending back military forces based in the Maldives according to law, and for sure we will do that accordingly. The people who brought… military forces don’t want to send them back, but the people of the Maldives decided.”

Before outgoing President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, Abdulla Yameen had brought the Maldives into Beijing’s shadow and borrowed extensively from China for building projects. However, under Solih the nation’s relations with its traditional patron India were adjusted.

Yameen was disqualified from last month’s election due to his criminal corruption conviction.

After winning, Muizzu, Yameen’s proxy, immediately obtained the latter’s release from the high-security Maafushi prison, where he was serving an 11-year prison sentence, and had him placed under house arrest in Male.

Muizzu, who is also the current mayor of Male, dismissed media claims that he will be “pro-China” and stated that he will instead be “pro-Maldives.”

PM Modi stated on social media site X that New Delhi is “committed to strengthening the time-tested India-Maldives bilateral relationship.”

On Monday, China thanked Muizzu and stated that it “respects the choice of the Maldivian people”. “China is willing to work with the Maldives to consolidate the traditional friendship, deepen mutually beneficial cooperation, and push for continuous new progress,” the Chinese foreign ministry said in a statement to AFP.

Muizzu stated that his party’s reelection will “script a further chapter of strong ties between our two countries” in a meeting with Chinese Communist Party leaders last year.

US silent on Muizzu’s announcement

On Tuesday, the US administration remained silent in response to Mohamed Muiz, declaring that he would carry out his campaign pledge and start the process of expelling Indian military personnel.

“This is a matter between the Maldives and India of course. We have never tried to imply one way or the other that any country is required to make any kind of decision about the kinds of exclusionary partnerships that it enters in through its bilateral relationships, whether it be with China or the United States or India or any other country,” said Vedant Patel, the US State Department’s Principal Deputy Spokesperson, at the daily press briefing.

Also on Tuesday, the US maintained its stance on the diplomatic dispute between Canada and India over claims made by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that New Delhi was responsible for the murder of Canadian Khalistani separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar in British Columbia in June of this year. Washington has been pressuring New Delhi to assist Ottawa in its investigation of Trudeau’s claim.

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