The Mohamed Muizzu administration is against the permanent presence of any foreign troops, regardless of existing bilateral or multilateral defence ties, in the Maldives, Minister of Defence Minister Mohamed Ghassan Maumoon said while speaking at Shangri-La Dialogue 2024 organised by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in Singapore.

“For the Maldives, defence cooperation does not, and must not, involve a permanent foreign military presence on our soil. It is our hope, that our friends and partners will respect this democratic decision of the people,” Maumoon emphasised on Friday during a special session titled “Defence Cooperation and Small State Security.”

The minister stated that the Maldives’ peace, stability, security, and safety need to be assured, and that the administration’s policies are focused on increasing the capacity of the nation’s self-defense forces to meet internationally accepted standards in the region. The President also prioritises maintaining existing defence ties and establishing further ties of cooperation with nations, he said.

The administration further prioritises improving the standard of the military, enhancing capacity towards protecting against acts of maritime terrorism, curbing illegal incursions, and mitigating the effects of climate change, the minister noted.

In terms of the Maldives’ location, it has international responsibilities and the responsibility of protecting those traveling in the Indian Ocean, he said.

In his speech, the Defence Minister described ensuring the security and safety of smaller nations as a constant challenge, pointing out that international law and norms have been the greatest guarantee of sovereignty. However, some nations abandoning these values present a challenge to the security and safety of smaller nations who need to build robust relationships with others to overcome such challenges, he said.

Maumoon said the administration’s policy was to enhance the Maldives’ defence capabilities and ensure the security of the Maldives’ maritime area.

“We do not want and will not want a permanent foreign military presence on our soil. Our hope is that our allies will respect this democratic decision of the people,” he said.

The IISS Shangri-La Dialogue is Asia’s premier defence summit where ministers gather to debate and discuss the region’s biggest security challenges. This year’s meeting takes place in Singapore from 31 May to 2 June.