In a recent press conference, Arindam Bagchi, the spokesperson for the Indian External Affairs Ministry, underscored India’s crucial role in Maldivian affairs, from disaster management to medical evacuations. This follows President-elect Dr Mohamed Muizzu’s declaration to remove Indian military presence in the Maldives, raising questions about the future of India-Maldives relations.

Bagchi noted that the Dornier aircraft and helicopters operated jointly by the Indian and Maldivian military have carried out more than 500 medical evacuations over the past five years, saving countless lives. This includes 313 evacuations this year alone. He further emphasised India’s consistent support in maritime security and prevention of maritime crimes.

On being asked about the newly elected Maldivian President Dr Mohamed Muizzu’s intentions concerning Indian military presence in the Maldives, Bagchi responded diplomatically. “We hope to continue to strengthen our relationship with the Maldives and work together in the future,” he stated. Areas of future collaboration identified include human resource development, disaster management, and prevention of human trafficking.

Bagchi revealed that dialogues are already underway with the new Maldivian government on these subjects. These discussions hold significance in the wake of President-elect Muizzu’s meeting with the Indian ambassador post-election. During this meeting, Muizzu reiterated his intention to repatriate Indian troops, a decision the ambassador said would be respected.

Another point of discussion was Muizzu’s recent comments egarding China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). While India opposes the BRI project, Muizzu claims it will be crucial for the progress of the Maldives. However, Bagchi did not indicate any disruptive actions from India’s side regarding ongoing projects in the Maldives.

Highlighting India’s reliability as a partner, Bagchi pointed out that India was the first country to provide assistance to the Maldives during the pandemic. “India is providing assistance to Maldives in various fields in the best interest of Maldives. Especially in human resources, welfare, or disaster recovery,” he added.

As Maldives prepares for a new political chapter under President-Elect Muizzu, the Indian External Affairs Ministry’s recent statements send a clear message of its willingness to cooperate and adapt.