Maldives president says Indian troops will leave island by 10 May

File. Maldives president Mohamed Muizzu speaks during a plenary session at the COP28 UN Climate Summit, Friday, 1 December 2023, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (Associated Press)
File. Maldives president Mohamed Muizzu speaks during a plenary session at the COP28 UN Climate Summit, Friday, 1 December 2023, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (Associated Press)

Maldives president Mohamed Muizzu announced that Indian troops will leave the island nation by mid-May amid diplomatic tension between the two south Asian nations.

He told parliament on Tuesday that Male and New Delhi have come to an agreement that the Indian troops will pull out of Maldives by 10 May.

Mr Muizzu said: “Maldives will not renew the agreement with India to chart the country’s inner and underwater charts. We will not allow any country to interfere with or undermine our sovereignty.”

According to a report by Sun Online, Mr Muizzu said the Indian Army will relocate its military personnel from one of the three aviation platforms in the Maldives by 10 March this year. “The military personnel of the remaining two platforms will leave by May 10,” he was quoted as saying.

He stated that the support from a vast majority of the Maldivian population for his administration represented a “pledge to withdraw foreign troops from Maldives, recover the lost part of Maldives seas and cancel any agreement made by the state that could undermine Maldives sovereignty”.

At least 88 Indian soldiers are reportedly posted in Maldives, along with 12 medical personnel from the Indian armed forces. The Indian troops have been deployed in the archipelago for maintaining and operating two rescue and reconnaissance helicopters, and a donated Dornier maritime surveillance aircraft.

Removing India’s small contingent of military personnel, as well as medical staff from the Indian armed forces, was a key campaign pledge for Mr Muizzu who has called for the country to pursue closer ties with China instead.

Mr Muizzu requested the troops’ removal shortly after entering office two months ago, and set the 15 March deadline after returning from a state visit to Beijing.

Last week, the Maldivian foreign ministry said both Male and New Delhi agreed that the Indian government would replace the military personnel in one of the three aviation platforms by 10 March and complete replacing military personnel in the other two platforms by 10 May.

Amid the tensions between the two countries, it was reported that the Indian Navy will monitor a Chinese surveillance ship Xiang Yang Hong 3 in the Indian Ocean region to ensure that it does not carry out any exploration activity in the Maldivian Exclusive Economic Zone.

In a statement, the Male government said: “Concerning the media reports regarding the port call of the Chinese research vessel Xiang Yang Hong 3 at Male, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would like to inform that a diplomatic request was made by the Government of China to the Government of Maldives, for the necessary clearances to make a port call, for rotation of personnel and replenishment. The vessel would not be conducting any research while in the Maldivian waters.

“The Maldives has always been a welcoming destination for vessels of friendly countries, and continues to host both civilian and military vessels making port calls for peaceful purposes. Such port calls not only enhance bilateral ties between the Maldives and its partner countries, but also demonstrate the centuries old tradition of the Maldivian people welcoming vessels from friendly countries,” the government added.

But India worries that the vessel may be on a mission to gather intelligence that the Chinese military could eventually use for submarine manoeuvers.