NEW DELHI: In a surprising turn of events, India has reportedly acceded to the Maldives government's request for the withdrawal of approximately 75 Indian military personnel stationed in the archipelago. Maldives President Mohammad Muizzu announced this development on Sunday, just two days after his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the COP28 Climate Summit in Dubai.
This decision, allegedly part of President Muizzu's "India Out" election campaign slogan, may disappoint New Delhi, which has consistently advocated for the strategic role of Indian personnel in the Maldives and urged the island nation to assess their utility appropriately.
According to a tweet from the Maldives President's office, quoting Muizzu's press conference after his return from the UAE, "The Indian government has assured the people of Maldives that it will respect their decision regarding the withdrawal of Indian troops from Maldives." However, government sources from India contested Muizzu's claim, asserting that discussions on this matter were still on-going.
The establishment of a "core group" was announced after the PM Modi- Muizzu meeting, tasked with thoroughly examining all aspects of whether the 75 Indian naval personnel currently engaged in Indian projects in the Maldives should stay or depart. The outcome of these deliberations will not only impact the immediate military presence is also projected to shape the trajectory of diplomatic ties, economic collaboration, and shared initiatives between the two nations.
The unfolding situation reflects a nuanced diplomatic engagement between the two nations, raising questions about the actual status of the troop withdrawal and the underlying dynamics shaping India-Maldives relations. As the discussions persist, the international community observes closely, recognizing the significance of stable relations in the Indian Ocean region. The questions surrounding the troop withdrawal reflect the broader challenges and opportunities that arise when nations navigate the intricate web of diplomatic, strategic, and regional considerations.