Maldives and India initiate official talks on troop withdrawal

Maldivian President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu meets India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi on December 1, 2023.

Maldives and India have initiated official talks regarding the withdrawal of Indian military personnel stationed in the Maldives.

The talks began at the Foreign Ministry headquarters in Male’ on Sunday.

Ibrahim Khaleel, the Minister at the President's Office for Strategic Communications, told Sun that the meeting was that of the high-level core group which Maldives and India agreed to set up during the meeting between Maldivian President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the COP28 in December.

Khaleel said the group was discussing the withdrawal of Indian military personnel and expediting India-backed development projects in the Maldives.

He declined to disclose details.

According to the latest government figures, there are 88 Indian military personnel in Maldives.

President Muizzu had built his presidential campaign on the promise of expelling Indian military personnel from the Maldives, and had made a formal request to India to withdraw its military personnel soon after coming to office.

Speaking to press on Saturday, after he returned to the Maldives after a five-day state visit to China, President Muizzu indirectly attacked India.

Without naming any country, he said, "We may be small, but that doesn't give you the license to bully us.”

He also announced plans to reduce the country’s dependency on India, including securing imports of essential food commodities and medicine and consumables from other countries.

“We aren’t in anyone’s backyard. We are an independent and sovereign state,” he said, addressing the reporters gathered at the Velana International Airport.

He said that no country has the right to exert influence over the domestic affairs of a country, regardless of its size.

He vowed that he will not allow any external influence on the domestic affairs of the Maldives.