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Will Ask India To Withdraw Troops On Day One In Office: Maldives President-Elect

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Maldives president-elect Mohamed Muizzu declared that he would like Indian troops to leave during the first week of his administration. He said that he had made New Delhi aware of the importance of this foreign policy priority during a meeting with the Indian high commissioner shortly after he was elected.

In the second and final round of last month’s presidential elections, Muizzu, a candidate for the opposition alliance consisting of the Progressive Party of Maldives and PNC, received 54% of the vote.

He had made numerous promises to withdraw any Indian foreign troops stationed in the Maldives both during and after his campaign. This was stated in the opposition’s campaign platform, which charged that the administration of former Mohamed Solih had very strong ties to India.

The Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, sent a letter to the president-elect on October 4 during a visit by Munu Mahawar, the country’s high commissioner to the Maldives, shortly after the election.

While Muizzu wants to “restore relations with India on the basis of respect for sovereignty,” the Maldivian summary of the meeting made no mention of the dispute surrounding the presence of Indian troops. In an interview with Al Jazeera, Muizzu claimed to have discussed the issue with India directly.

During the interview, he said, “I have actually met with the Indian high commissioner few days ago during the transition period and during that meeting itself, I had mentioned that we need this to be our top most priority. They have positively noted that. And they have said that they will work together with us to find a way forward on this.”

The Maldives is presently going through a transitional period, and on November 17 there will be a formal swearing-in ceremony to begin Muizzu’s tenure.

When asked when he would ask India to take the soldiers out of the country, he said, “Definitely day one.” “If it is possible within the first week, that’s how serious for us it is,” Muizzu said in response to a follow-up inquiry on the timing for the military departure. If foreign forces were stationed on the Maldives’ land, he warned, there would be grave concerns about the country’s independence.

“We have been a very peaceful country for centuries. We never had any foreign troops on our soil. We are a very small country. We do not have a big military set up and any foreign troops seen on our soil, we don’t feel ourselves secure,” the president-elect said.

The administration in Solih has declared on several occasions that there was no military action by Indian forces and that the only people stationed to fly donated helicopters for medical evacuation were security personnel.

PPM chief Abdulla Yameen initially stirred up the controversy around the purported deployment of Indian forces in the latter months of his administration. President Yameen’s proposal for withdrawal was met with opposition from India, however he was quickly overthrown in the 2019 elections.

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