In a surprising move just a day after assuming office, Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu has formally requested India to withdraw its military personnel from the Indian Ocean archipelago. While expressing hope that India will respect the democratic will of the Maldivian people, Muizzu emphasized the important role played by Indian military choppers in conducting emergency medical evacuations.
Muizzu acknowledged the value of Indian assistance and expressed his commitment to finding a workable solution to ensure the continued operation of Indian-manned choppers in the Maldives. These choppers have not only been instrumental in facilitating medical evacuations but also contribute to the confidence and safety of international tourists on remote islands. They are indispensable for monitoring and combating drug trafficking activities as well.
On a positive note for India, Muizzu urged for the expedited progress of India-assisted projects, particularly the Greater Male Connectivity Project, worth $500 million. This project was initiated by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi alongside Muizzu’s predecessor, Ibrahim Solih.
Despite the call for withdrawal, the fate of the two Indian-manned choppers and the Dornier aircraft provided by India remains uncertain. Muizzu, during his tenure as president-elect, had consistently expressed his desire to eliminate Indian military presence, preferably within the first week of his presidency. However, the suddenness of this announcement raises questions, as there is a lack of clarity regarding the number of Indian troops present in the country, as admitted by Muizzu himself.
According to reliable sources within the previous Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) government, excluding personnel involved in India’s technical and economic cooperation program, there are no active Indian military personnel in the Maldives. These personnel were specifically deployed to operate the Dornier aircraft and the gifted Indian helicopters.
The Indian government previously highlighted how its assistance has contributed significantly to the maritime security of the Maldives. Over the past five years, Indian aircraft and choppers have conducted successful medical evacuations, saving the lives of 523 individuals. Notably, one of these choppers was presented to the Maldives in 2016, during the presidency of Muizzu’s former alliance partner, Abdulla Yameen.
Although Muizzu has often been perceived as a pro-China leader due to his alliance with Yameen, who is currently imprisoned on corruption charges, his aides have refuted claims of a potential shift in the country’s foreign policy towards China. In fact, Muizzu himself has categorically stated that he has no intentions of replacing Indian military personnel with Chinese troops. During his meeting with Indian Minister Kiren Rijiju, Muizzu emphasized that the recent presidential election results validate his mandate to request the withdrawal of Indian troops.
- Q: What is the Greater Male Connectivity Project?
- A: The Greater Male Connectivity Project is a significant infrastructure project initiated by India to enhance connectivity in the Maldives. It aims to address transportation challenges and promote economic growth by developing bridges and causeways between islands in the Greater Male region.
- Q: What role do Indian military choppers play in the Maldives?
- A: Indian military choppers in the Maldives primarily assist in conducting emergency medical evacuations and contribute to monitoring and combating drug trafficking. They also instill confidence in international tourists visiting remote islands.
- Q: How has Indian assistance helped the Maldives?
- A: Indian assistance has played a crucial role in safeguarding the Maldives’ maritime security. Indian aircraft and choppers have conducted numerous successful medical evacuations, saving hundreds of lives over the past five years.
- Q: Will the withdrawal of Indian troops affect ongoing projects?
- A: The fate of ongoing India-assisted projects, including the Greater Male Connectivity Project, remains uncertain. However, President Muizzu has emphasized the need to accelerate their progress despite his call for withdrawal of Indian military personnel.
(Source: Times of India)