President Muizzu Declares Firm Stance Against Foreign Interference in Parliament Address Announces Withdrawal of Indian Troops by 10 May 2024

New Delhi: Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu reaffirmed his anti-India position in a parliamentary address, emphasizing that the island nation will not tolerate any external interference with its sovereignty. Reports indicate that a consensus between New Delhi and Male has been reached for the withdrawal of Indian troops from the Maldives by May 10.

President Muizzu specified that Indian troops stationed on one of the three aviation platforms in the Maldives will depart by March 10, while those on the remaining two will leave by May 10. He declared the decision not to renew the agreement with India regarding the mapping of the country’s internal and underwater territories, firmly asserting the safeguarding of Maldives’ sovereignty against external influences.

In response to the president’s speech, the main opposition parties, MDP and Democrats, boycotted the address, with only 24 out of 80 present members attending. This move marks a historic parliamentary boycott, as the opposition parties, holding a majority of 56 seats, express discontent and are contemplating an impeachment proposal against President Muizzu.

India, maintaining a humanitarian aid and medical evacuation presence with 87 troops in the Maldives, has reportedly agreed to the withdrawal terms during a meeting in New Delhi. The External Affairs Ministry announced that both countries have mutually agreed on solutions to enable the continued operation of Indian aviation platforms, which will now be staffed by civilians instead of soldiers.

President Muizzu’s anti-India stance has faced criticism domestically, particularly in light of the government’s efforts to strengthen ties with China. This shift in foreign policy, evident through the president’s visit to China and meeting with President Xi Jinping, has caused concern among opposition parties who describe it as “extremely detrimental” and stress the importance of stability and security in the Indian Ocean for the Maldives.

Amidst the strained relations, Gasuim Ibrahim, leader of the Jumhoori Party, has called for President Muizzu to apologize to India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urging diplomatic reconciliation to mend ties. External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar acknowledged the complexities of regional dynamics, emphasizing the interconnectedness of history and geography, and the indispensable need for collaboration among neighboring nations.