In a significant turn of events, the President of the Maldives, Mohamed Muizzu, announced that India has agreed to withdraw its military personnel from the Maldivian islands. This announcement came as Muizzu returned from the United Arab Emirates, after attending the UN's COP28 climate conference in Dubai. It was during this conference that Muizzu met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, triggering discussions regarding the technical details involved in the withdrawal process.
Muizzu's Campaign Promise
The decision for India to withdraw its forces is in line with the campaign promises made by the Maldives Progressive Party. Under the leadership of Muizzu, the party emerged victorious in the October elections. The Indian military presence in the Maldives includes 77 soldiers, along with a Dornier reconnaissance aircraft and two helicopters, all operated by Indian personnel.
High-Level Bilateral Committee
Furthermore, both the Maldives and India have mutually agreed to establish a high-level bilateral committee. This committee will be tasked with addressing challenges and speeding up various projects funded by India in the archipelago. One of the notable projects under this purview includes the Thilamale bridge project. This ambitious project aims to connect Male, the capital of the Maldives, with several other islands in the archipelago.
Implications for India-Maldives Relations
The withdrawal of Indian military personnel marks a significant shift in the Maldives' 'India first' policy. The decision is likely to reshape the dynamics of India-Maldives relations while potentially altering the balance of power in the region. Despite the agreement to withdraw, sources from the central government have clarified that discussions on the matter are still ongoing. The core group set up by both sides will also look into details of how to maintain the Indian helicopters and operational aircrafts in the Maldives.