After taking oath as President of Maldives, Mohamed Muizzu on Saturday formally requested India to withdraw its military presence from his country. Muizzu’s made the request when he met India’s Union Minister Kiren Rijiju earlier in the day.
Rijiju represented India at the inauguration of the Maldives’ new leader.
Soon after oath-taking on Friday, Muizzu asserted that he was committed to ensure that his country remains "free" of any "foreign military presence" to preserve its independence and sovereignty. He did not specify any name during his address.
Maldivian President’s Office said that the Maldivian people had strong mandate to make the request to India.
"The President noted that at the Presidential Election held in September, the Maldivian people had given him a strong mandate to make the request to India and expressed the hope that India will honour the democratic will of the people of the Maldives,” read the statement from the President's Office.
A close associate of former Maldives President Abdulla Yameen, who forged close ties with China during his Presidency from 2013 to 2018, Muizzu defeated India-friendly incumbent Ibrahim Mohamed Solih in the presidential runoff held in September. Even during his election campaigns Muizzu indicated that withdrawal of Indian military troops was his top priority.
During the discussions with Rijiju, Muizzu also acknowledged the significant role of the two helicopters in providing numerous emergency medical evacuations.
Maldives is India's key maritime neighbour in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and occupies a special place in the Prime Minister's vision of SAGAR' (Security and Growth for All in the Region) and the Neighbourhood First Policy.'
Rijiju conveyed his best wishes to the President, representing the sentiments of the Government and the people of India, said the statement.
"Privileged to call on President H.E. Dr. Mohamed Muizzu. Conveyed greetings from Hon'ble PM @NarendraModi and reiterated India's commitment to further strengthen the substantive bilateral cooperation and robust people-to-people ties," Rijiju posted on X.
India was the first to assist Maldives during the 2004 Tsunami as well as the water crisis in Male in December 2014.
Privileged to call on President H.E. Dr. Mohamed Muizzu.— Kiren Rijiju (@KirenRijiju) November 18, 2023
Conveyed greetings from Hon’ble PM @NarendraModi and reiterated India’s commitment to further strengthen the substantive bilateral cooperation and robust people-to-people ties. pic.twitter.com/nFa95QD9ES
Muizzu and Rijiju also reviewed the progress of the implementation of various projects in the Maldives with the support of India.
The President emphasised the importance of accelerating the Greater Male' Connectivity Project (GMCP), highlighted the importance of addressing and overcoming the issues delaying the project, the statement said.
(With PTI inputs)