President Dr Mohamed Muizzu has announced that the Indian government has agreed to withdraw its troops stationed in the Maldives. This announcement comes in line with President Muizzu’s campaign pledge to recalibrate the country’s foreign policy.

During a press briefing at Velana International Airport after returning from his first official trip abroad on Sunday, President Muizzu emphasised the Maldivian people’s preference to maintain a nation free from foreign military presence. This decision, he stressed, is rooted in the country’s commitment to sovereignty and mutual respect in international relations.

President Muizzu, who assumed office in November after winning the presidential election against incumbent Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, initiated dialogue with Indian officials regarding the withdrawal soon after taking office. His first formal request was made to Kiren Rijiju, India’s Minister for Earth Sciences, symbolising a shift from the previous administration’s “India first” policy.

The president underscored that around five high-level meetings had occurred with Indian officials to facilitate the withdrawal process, now underway at a technical level. Additionally, a high-level committee comprising senior officials from both nations has been established to address challenges related to ongoing development projects in the Maldives, including significant initiatives like the Thilamale’ bridge project.

On the sidelines of the COP28 climate summit in Dubai, President Muizzu met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi who expressed respect for the democratic decision of the Maldivian people, signalling a cooperative approach towards the region’s future.

In parallel, a ‘core group’ has been agreed upon by both countries to further strengthen bilateral relations, as confirmed by Arindam Bagchi, India’s Official Spokesperson at the Ministry of External Affairs. This group aims to deepen the partnership between the two countries in various sectors, including economic relations, development cooperation, and climate change.

President Muizzu’s approach marks a nuanced shift in Maldivian foreign policy, balancing national sovereignty with diplomatic ties. The current administration is keen on maintaining strong relations with India while upholding the democratic will of its people. The resolution to withdraw the 77 Indian soldiers stationed in the Maldives is seen as a diplomatic success and a fulfilment of a significant campaign promise by President Muizzu.