Following his election win, the Maldives’ president-elect Mohamed Muizzu declared that foreign military forces will not be permitted to remain in the country. Speaking at a celebratory rally, Muizzu announced, “All the countries which agree to our pro-Maldives policy will be our close friends and allies.” 

Muizzu, who defeated incumbent President Ibrahim Solih in a second-round runoff, is backed by a coalition known for its closeness to China. The new president-elect had earlier led an “India Out” campaign, targeting a “support unit of Indian military” in the Maldives, as described by the incumbent. Muizzu’s views point to a recalibration of diplomatic ties not only with India but also potentially with China.

Prior to a meeting with India, Muizzu met with Chinese Ambassador Wang Lixin, signalling the importance of China in his foreign policy framework. The meeting followed public congratulations from Chinese President Xi Jinping on Muizzu’s electoral win. 

The president-elect then met with the Indian Ambassador to the Maldives, Munu Mahawar. During the meeting, the ambassador assured Muizzu that India would fully respect the Maldives’ territorial integrity and sovereignty. Additionally, India indicated its willingness to renegotiate terms for the repayment of loans obtained by the outgoing Maldivian government.

Both meetings were also attended by Vice President-elect Hussain Mohamed Latheef, indicating the high-level importance accorded to these initial diplomatic interactions.

Reuters reported that a senior Indian government official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, stated that New Delhi would “wait and watch” the policies of the new Maldivian administration, but emphasised that India was “not anti-Maldives.”

The Maldives, strategically located 450 miles south of India along critical Indian Ocean shipping routes, remains an area of competition between India and China. Both nations have historically vied for influence in the region. 

While China has bolstered its presence through the Belt and Road Initiative, India has been increasingly assertive, especially after the 2018 election of President Solih, who followed an “India First” policy.

The presidential campaign was not solely focused on international relations; it also addressed a host of domestic issues, such as the housing crisis in the densely populated Maldivian capital and depleting dollar reserves. 

However, geopolitical concerns, particularly the influence of India and China, were dominant themes, and incumbent President Solih’s close ties to India are attributed to his loss of popularity.