Maldives’ newly elected President Mohammed Muizzu made a formal request to the Indian government to withdraw its military personnel from the country. The President said that the people of Maldives had given him a strong mandate to request India in the presidential elections held in September and expressed hope that India would respect the democratic will of the people of Maldives. Indian Minister Kiren Rijiju was present at Muizzu’s swearing-in ceremony. It is being said that he discussed the matter with him. The President raised the issue of Indian military personnel being present in the Maldives for medical evacuation and aircraft operations for anti-drug trafficking purposes during his meeting with Rijiju.
Who is Mohammad Muizzu?
Muizzu won the presidential election in October this year and his victory comes amid a major debate over the role of foreign powers in the country. The Maldives is a small island country located in the Indian Ocean, and is home to approximately 500,000 people. China has been trying to deepen relations with it for almost a decade. This period coincides with the rise of China and the projection of its power, including in the South Asian region. For a long time, India has considered Maldives as part of its regional influence. Maldives’ powerful former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom maintained close ties with India for many years. With their defeat in the 2008 elections, foreign policy has become an important element in the election campaigns of new leaders. In 2008, Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) won. The MDP and its top leaders, especially Nasheed, were seen as pro-India. Relations between India and Maldives deteriorated significantly when Abdulla Yameen was president between 2013 and 2018. Relations between New Delhi and Mali improved only after Solih came to power in 2018. Solih continuously focused on promoting relations with India and pursued an “India First” policy. After his election, Muizzu had said that his first priority would be to evacuate all Indian military personnel present in his Indian Ocean archipelago country. However, along with this Muizzu said that he will not replace Indian security personnel with Chinese personnel.
What is India Out campaign?
What became known as the ‘India Out’ campaign began with some grassroots protests in the Maldives around 2020 and later spread widely across social media platforms using the phrase along with related hashtags. It was alleged that New Delhi has sent a large military contingent to the Maldives, a claim repeatedly denied by the Solih government. Meanwhile, India and Maldives have also deepened cooperation to develop a port at Uthuru Thilafalhu (UTF) Atoll for the Maldives Coast Guard.