President-elect Dr Mohamed Muizzu has confirmed that talks have commenced with India concerning the removal of its military presence in the country. The information was revealed in an interview published by Bloomberg News on Friday, adding to the complex geopolitical equations involving India and China in the region.

“Removing Indian troops was a key campaign pledge, and I’ve already begun negotiations with the Indian government on this matter. The talks have been very successful already,” Muizzu told Bloomberg. 

This follows Muizzu’s earlier comments to the BBC, where he had expressed the desire for the Maldives to steer clear of the global power struggle, particularly between India and China.

Currently, around 70 Indian military personnel operate radar stations and surveillance aircraft in the Maldives, and Indian warships assist in patrolling the Maldivian exclusive economic zone. 

The president-elect was quick to clarify that the request for India to remove its military personnel did not open the door for military presence from other countries, including China. “We want a bilateral relationship that’s mutually beneficial. Asking India to remove military personnel doesn’t mean that I’m going to allow China or any other country to bring their military troops here,” he assured.

Muizzu’s electoral victory adds to the ongoing competition between India and China for geopolitical influence over the Indian Ocean. Both nations for opposing governments have heavily invested in the Maldives’ infrastructure and have extended loans, making Maldives a focal point in their regional strategies.

The President-Elect, who is due to assume office on 17th November, has been consistent in advocating a “pro-Maldives” stance. This latest development in military negotiations reflects his commitment to put Maldives first, while also carefully navigating the geopolitical complexities of the region. “Maldivian independence comes first, and I am not for or against any country,” Muizzu had previously stated in a BBC interview.