Former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom has reignited his “India Out” campaign, signalling a resurgence in his political activity following his release from prison. The campaign, which advocates for the expulsion of Indian military personnel from the Maldives, underscores Yameen’s ongoing critique of foreign military presence as a threat to national sovereignty.

Yameen, whose 11-year sentence was recently overturned by the High Court prompting a retrial, has wasted no time in vocalising his disapproval of Indian troops’ involvement in Maldivian affairs. His release, after serving 480 days, comes amidst ongoing legal proceedings related to charges of bribery and money laundering connected to the lease of Aarah Island in Vaavu Atoll. Despite being barred from last year’s presidential elections due to these charges, Yameen has remained a vocal figure in Maldivian politics.

The former president’s reinvigorated stance reflects his persistent concern over Maldives’ territorial sovereignty and foreign policy autonomy, which he argues are compromised by the continued presence of Indian military assets. While the Maldivian government has taken steps towards reducing the Indian military footprint, confirming the return of personnel associated with operating military helicopters and a Dornier aircraft, Yameen casts doubt on the transparency and completeness of these efforts. He points out that although the personnel have been replaced, the aircraft are still operational under Indian civilians’ control.

Yameen’s tenure as president from 2013 to 2018 was marked by strained relations with India, stemming partly from his administration’s request for the withdrawal of Indian troops—a request that went unheeded. This historical tension sets the backdrop for his current criticisms of the existing administration’s handling of foreign military presence, which he and others in the opposition deem unconstitutional.

By revitalising the “India Out” campaign, Yameen not only challenges the current government’s policies but also positions himself as a defender of Maldivian sovereignty against perceived external encroachments. This move could potentially intensify domestic political contention and complicate Maldives’ foreign relations, especially with India.

As Yameen steps back into the political arena with renewed vigor, his campaign is likely to stir significant debate within the Maldives about the balance between maintaining national sovereignty and managing foreign relations. His actions suggest a strategic positioning that could influence the trajectory of upcoming political dynamics in the Maldives, impacting both domestic policy and international alignments.