President-elect Dr Mohamed Muizzu has pledged to commence efforts to remove all foreign soldiers based in the Maldives on his first day in office. This marked one of his most impactful statements during his victory rally held at the Social Centre on Monday evening. 

The decision comes in response to the wishes of the Maldivian people who, according to Muizzu, “have decided they do not want the presence of foreign soldiers in the Maldives.” Specifically, Indian troops were highlighted, posing a potential shift in Maldives-India relations.

Muizzu’s stance on foreign troops signifies a marked departure from the foreign policy of the outgoing administration led by President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. Solih, who adopted a pro-India stance, defended his administration’s foreign policy, dismissing claims that it was the reason for his electoral defeat. He insisted that his policy was “the best ever pursued and shaped to benefit the country.”

Apart from the matter of foreign troops, Muizzu also highlighted concerns about the country’s economy, stating that it was “enslaved.” Without naming a specific country, he revealed that half of the nation’s debt is owed to a particular nation. 

Muizzu, however, expressed confidence in solving these issues through diplomatic channels. This two-pronged approach to foreign policy and economics suggests that Muizzu’s administration will be focused on reinforcing national sovereignty on multiple fronts.

Outgoing President Solih urged the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) to act responsibly as the opposition. Solih noted that his defeat was not a rejection of his foreign policy but rather stemmed from internal party issues and misinformation. Muizzu, on the other hand, welcomes responsible opposition that prioritises the nation’s interests over partisanship. 

Muizzu also expressed his visions for domestic development, including the financial empowerment of women and senior citizens, fostering a sense of national spirit, and prioritising the Dhivehi Language and Islamic religion. These aims reflect Muizzu’s “Pro-Maldives” policy that prioritises national interests.

While President-elect Muizzu’s pledge to remove foreign troops signals a significant shift in Maldivian foreign policy, it also presents diplomatic challenges that will need to be carefully managed. 

Foreign policy analysts have repeatedly commented that the Maldives cannot completely alienate India from its equation, and any measures to act on the nationalistic platform that PPM/PNC ran on, would be cosmetic gestures like the removal of pilots that operate aircrafts donated by the Indian government.