New Delhi : A high-level talks have commenced between India and Maldives officials regarding the withdrawal of Indian military personnel stationed in the Island Nation. The discussions were initiated on Sunday, following Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu’s request for the withdrawal of Indian troops by March 15.
The core group, formed during a meeting between President Muizzu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in December at COP28 in Dubai, convened at the Maldivian Foreign Ministry headquarters in Male’, according to a report by SunOnline newspaper. The talks aimed to address the pressing issue of withdrawing 77 Indian military personnel currently stationed in the Maldives.
Ibrahim Khaleel, the Minister at the President’s Office for Strategic Communications, stated that the core group not only discussed the withdrawal of Indian military personnel but also focused on expediting development projects backed by India in the island nation.
The controversy arose after President Muizzu, who assumed office on November 17, formally requested India to withdraw its military personnel, emphasizing the strong mandate given to him by the Maldivian people. The withdrawal of Indian troops had been a significant point of contention for the ‘pro-China’ leader.
Maldivian authorities are also reviewing over 100 bilateral agreements with New Delhi, indicating a broader reevaluation of the diplomatic relationship between the two nations.
The talks come amidst strained relations exacerbated by derogatory comments posted on social media by three deputy ministers of the Muizzu government against Prime Minister Modi. In response, President Muizzu suspended all three ministers, leading to concerns in India and calls for a tourist boycott. Indian tourists constitute the highest number, followed by visitors from Russia and China.
President Muizzu, upon returning from China, emphasized that despite being a small nation, Maldives would not tolerate bullying. During his recent state visit to China, Muizzu sought to strengthen ties with Beijing, highlighting Maldives’ commitment to an independent foreign policy.
As the discussions unfold, the diplomatic relations between India and Maldives are at a crucial juncture, with the withdrawal of Indian military personnel and the broader implications on bilateral agreements taking center stage. The international community watches closely as the two nations navigate through this challenging diplomatic terrain.