Updated January 25th, 2024 at 13:50 IST
Indian Soldiers Still in Maldives, Navy Chief Clarifies as Row Intensifies with Chinese Ship's Entry
Amid Maldives-India tension, Muizzu seeks Indian troop withdrawal; Navy Chief says no plans for return. However, a Chinese vessel is now en route to Male.
New Delhi: Amid the current dispute between the Maldives and India, where Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu has requested the 'complete' withdrawal of Indian troops from the tiny island nation, India's Navy Chief, R Hari Kumar, clarified that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has not instructed defence personnel to leave the Maldives, according to media reports. Further reports indicate that a Chinese research vessel, Xiang Yang Hong 03, is already en route to Male, which might lead to relations becoming much worse in the coming days.
Negotiations between India and the Maldives are reportedly underway regarding the removal of troops. According to officials in both Male and Delhi, there are currently 88 Indian soldiers and 12 medical personnel from the Indian armed forces stationed in the archipelago country. India has also provided two helicopters and a Dornier aircraft to the Maldives, mainly used for marine surveillance, search and rescue operations, and medical evacuations. However, all these assets are currently grounded.
Replace Soldiers with Civilians: Maldives’ Plea
During the initial meeting of the India-Maldives core group, Maldivian representative Ali Naseer urged Indian High Commissioner to Maldives Munu Mahawar to replace defence personnel with civilian crew by March 15. Navy Chief R Hari Kumar stated that they are awaiting instructions and underscored that New Delhi has not communicated any decision to the navy thus far.
President Mohamed Muizzu, elected last year with a promise to prioritise "Maldives First," has requested the withdrawal of Indian military personnel, signalling a shift in his country's alignment towards building stronger ties with China. This move comes amid regional competition between India and China for influence. After taking office on November 17 last year, President Mohamed Muizzu, known for his pro-China stance, formally requested India's military withdrawal, citing a "strong mandate" from the Maldivian people.
The Maldives-India Row & Further Escalations
The strained relationship escalated when three Maldivian ministers made derogatory remarks about Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on social media. Although the Maldives government distanced itself from the ministers' comments, the diplomatic fallout had repercussions on the longstanding relationship between India and the Maldives. The situation remains uncertain as both nations engage in talks to resolve the ongoing tensions.
Published January 25th, 2024 at 13:50 IST