Political discord has flared up following comments made by the Speaker of Parliament, Mohamed Nasheed, in an interview with the Indian news outlet ‘The Hindu.’ In the controversial interview, Nasheed claimed that President-elect Dr Mohamed Muizzu would be open to the presence of 75 Indian soldiers on Maldivian soil.

In response, the office of the President-Elect has issued a strong rebuttal, distancing itself from Nasheed’s comments. Transitional Spokesperson Mohamed Firuzul Abdullah Khaleel, in a press conference, stressed that the president-elect has no intention of allowing any foreign military presence on Maldivian soil.

“The President-elect’s position is that not even a single pair of shoes belonging to Indian troops, or any foreign troops for that matter, will be allowed to remain on Maldivian soil. This decision reflects the will of the Maldivian people,” Khaleel clarified.

Speaker Nasheed had indicated that cooperation with India would be beneficial for Maldives’ defence strategy, citing the threat of terrorism. “Terrorist organisations can come from anywhere. Hundreds of people could come and really threaten the Maldives. There is no better way than strengthening defence cooperation with India,” Nasheed argued.

The contentious issue of foreign troop presence in the Maldives has been a significant point of debate, especially between the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and the Progressive Party of Maldives-People’s National Congress (PPM-PNC) coalition.

Despite repeated assurances from President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih that no foreign troops would serve military purposes in the Maldives, the PPM-PNC had led a major political campaign under the name ‘India Out’, credited to their success at the recent presidential polls.

Nasheed, who also formerly served as President, has previously ascribed Muizzu’s election victory to a perceived leadership vacuum within the MDP, rather than any shift in foreign policy orientation. He disputed the idea that the election result was a mandate against the presence of Indian troops.

Although Nasheed is optimistic that the long-standing relationship between India and the Maldives will not undergo any drastic changes under Muizzu’s leadership, the president-elect’s office has underscored that his administration will be distinct and independent in its policy decisions.

“As a responsible office, we would urge Speaker Nasheed to refrain from making statements that contradict the will of the Maldivian people and the policies of the President-elect,” Khaleel added.