The Indian government has not issued any directives for its defence personnel to withdraw from the Maldives, Indian Navy Chief Admiral R. Hari Kumar has confirmed. This development comes amidst a period of strained relations between India and the Maldives, following President Mohamed Muizzu’s decision to move away from the country’s longstanding ‘India First’ policy.

President Muizzu, who came to power last year, has called for the withdrawal of Indian troops by 15 March. The decision is perceived as a pivot away from India and an attempt to foster stronger ties with China, thereby intensifying the geopolitical competition between New Delhi and Beijing.

“We await instructions, whatever is the decision,” stated Kumar in an interview with broadcaster CNN-News 18, when queried about the potential return of defence personnel from the Maldives. He further clarified that New Delhi has “not really” issued any communication to the navy so far.

At present, approximately 88 Indian soldiers are stationed in the Maldives to provide support for military equipment provided to Malé by New Delhi and to assist in humanitarian operations.

The Muizzu administration has been actively cultivating stronger relations with China. The recent state visit to China by President Muizzu marked a significant departure from the diplomatic norm for Maldivian leaders. The visit saw the signing of a series of agreements aimed at deepening bilateral ties across a wide array of sectors.

The Maldives-India Co-group recently held talks on thawing the situation, but the current state of India-Maldives relations remains fraught with tension. This tension was exacerbated when three Maldivian deputy ministers made derogatory remarks about Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on social media. The ministers were subsequently suspended indefinitely pending investigation.

As the geopolitical landscape continues to evolve, the future trajectory of India-Maldives relations remains uncertain.