Maldives President-elect Mohamed Muizzu stated that negotiations to remove India's military presence in the country have started. Removing Indian troops was a key campaign pledge by Muizzu, who ousted President Ibrahim Solih last month, Reuters said in a report.
New Delhi-sponsored radar stations are installed in the archipelagic state that are manned by around 70 Indian personnel, the report added. Then there are the surveillance aircraft and the Indian Navy's warships which help in patrolling Maldives' exclusive economic zone.
Mohamed Muizzu told Bloomberg News in an interview he had already begun negotiations with New Delhi on calling back its military, which has started to look very successful already.
However, sending back Indian troops home is not to bring in the soldiers of any other country to Maldives, he clarified. India and China are involved in a power struggle to establish influence in the region and Muizzu was labelled by a pro-Beijing man ahead of the elections.
"We want a bilateral relationship that's mutually beneficial. Asking India to remove military personnel in no way indicated that I'm going to allow China or any other country to bring their military troops here," Muizzu was quoted as saying in the interview.
Successive Maldives governments have tilted either toward India or China. Both Asian powerhouses have invested heavily in upgrading infrastructure in the country and have extended lucrative loans, as they compete with each other to become the "best friend" of the archipelagic state in the Indian Ocean.