Maldives asks India to withdraw troops by March 15

President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu chairs a cabinet meeting on December 31, 2023. (Photo/President's Office)

President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu has asked India to withdraw its military personnel from the Maldives by mid-March.

In a press briefing on Sunday afternoon, Abdulla Nazim Ibrahim, the public policy secretary at the President’s Office, said that President Muizzu has formally asked India to withdraw its military personal by March 15.

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

Maldives and India have set up a high-level core group to negotiate the withdrawal of troops. The group held its first meeting at the Foreign Ministry Headquarters in Male’ on Sunday morning. The meeting was also attended by Indian High Commissioner Munu Mahawar.

Nazim confirmed the meeting, and said the agenda for the meeting was the request to withdraw troops by March 15.

He expects the meeting to continue well into the evening.

“Indian military personnel cannot stay in the Maldives. This is the policy of President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu and that of this administration,” he said.

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 assuming 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.