After Qatar, Maldives: Incoming president says talks on to remove Indian troops from island
The decision follows president-elect Mohamed Muizzu's apparent neutral stance in the rivalry between India and China, seeking balanced ties with both nations
Amid the tug-of-war between India and China for influence over the Indian Ocean, Maldivian president-elect Mohamed Muizzu has said in an interview that negotiations with India on troop removal have begun.
Speaking to Bloomberg, Muizzu, known for his pro-China stand, and who defeated Ibrahim Solih last month said Maldives is too small to take sides in a “geopolitical rivalry between bigger nations".
“We want a bilateral relationship that’s mutually beneficial,” Muizzu said, adding that Indian soldiers would not be replaced by troops from other countries.
Removing Indian troops from the island was a key campaign pledge from Muizzu, though the move is also being seen as another blow to the Narendra Modi government after Qatar announced capital punishment for eight former Indian Navy officials on supposed espionage charges.
There are around 70 Indian military personnel deployed in the Maldives to maintain New Delhi-sponsored radar stations, while surveillance aircraft from Indian warships help patrol Maldives’ exclusive economic zone.
It is important to note here that successive governments in the nation have tilted either toward India or China. Both the Asian powers have invested heavily in upgrading Maldives' infrastructure and extended loans, as they compete with each other for influence over the small but strategically important island.