President-Elect Dr Mohamed Muizzu is set to redefine the Maldives’ foreign policy by focusing on sovereignty and transparency. Following his first international interview with Al Jazeera, where he revealed plans to remove Indian troops from the Maldives in the first week of his presidency, it is clear Muizzu aims to reclaim control over national security while fostering international relationships.

The president-elect’s commitment to removing Indian military presence could be a litmus test for his administration. It is not just a defence matter but a statement of sovereignty. “Even if it’s possible within the first week, that’s how serious for us it is,” Muizzu stated in his Al Jazeera interview. 

While he confirmed that these plans have been communicated to Indian Ambassador Munu Mahawar and that India has given a green signal to cooperate, the nation, along with its foreign partners, watches to see how diplomatically and efficiently this process unfolds.

Despite his resolve to repatriate Indian troops, Muizzu clarified that he seeks to maintain the Maldives’ diplomatic relations with India, notably in development projects. He explained that there are no plans to bring in Chinese military presence as a balancing act. “We don’t want to be entangled with other bigger countries,” he said, scotching speculation about leaning towards China.

Muizzu has taken to heart public opinion against foreign military presence, emphasising that the outgoing government lost credibility primarily due to compromised national security. “The public did not desire foreign military presence, a sentiment that should be respected and complied with,” Muizzu added, citing this as one of the principal reasons for his predecessor’s loss.

Arguably the overarching theme of Muizzu’s emerging policy framework is his ‘Pro-Maldives’ stance, which has already been commended by foreign allies including Australia. While he is committed to maintaining friendly relations with countries that respect Maldivian sovereignty, including China, Muizzu insisted that his policies would not be defined by any external influences.