The Maldives and India will form a ‘core group’ with a view to further strengthen relations between the two nations, India’s Official Spokesperson at the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Arindam Bagchi has confirmed. The decision was made during the first meeting between President Mohamed Muizzu and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, held on the sidelines of the COP28 climate summit in Dubai, the MEA Spokesperson said.

“PM @narendramodi [Modi] met President @MMuizzu [Muizzu] of Maldives on the sidelines of #COP28 WCAS in Dubai. PM congratulated President Muizzu on his assumption of office. Both leaders reviewed the wide-ranging bilateral relations between the two countries including people to people linkages, development cooperation, economic relations, climate change and sports. The two leaders also discussed ways to further deepen their partnership. In this regard, they agreed to set up a core group,” Bagchi said on social media.

Modi, also in reference to the meeting, posted to social media in Dhivehi saying that the meeting between the leaders was successful and that various areas of friendship between the nations were discussed, adding that both leaders hoped to enhance cooperation and work together in the future for the benefit of the people of both countries.

One of Muizzu’s main campaign promises was the initiation, on his first day as President, of the process of expelling foreign troops from the Maldives — a stance that strongly hinted at the removal of Indian troops, considering the support his campaign received from the ‘India Out’ movement. One of the first issues discussed with the High Commissioner of India to the Maldives, Munu Mahawar, once Muizzu was elected president, was the removal of Indian troops from the Maldives. While some Indian journalists, during the Dubai summit, asked Muizzu for his thoughts on the Indian military presence in the Maldives, the President’s answer was not specific to their question.

“There is a strong relationship between India and the Maldives,” President Muizzu said in his response to queries by Indian media.