National News Desk
Maldives foreign minister Moosa Zameer met his Indian counterpart S Jaishankar on Thursday in Kampala, Uganda, where they attended the NAM summit. Zameer reiterated his country’s request for India to withdraw its military personnel from the Maldives by March 15, as per the decision of President Mohamed Muizzu.
India has deployed around 50 troops in the Maldives since 2018, when it intervened to defuse a political crisis that saw former president Abdulla Yameen impose a state of emergency and arrest several opposition leaders. India’s presence was welcomed by the then-opposition coalition, which included Muizzu, who became president after defeating Yameen in the 2018 elections.
However, Muizzu’s government has since changed its stance and asked India to remove its troops, citing sovereignty concerns and the need to maintain a balanced foreign policy. India, on the other hand, has argued that its troops are there for training and capacity-building purposes, and that their withdrawal would affect the security and stability of the region.
Jaishankar and Zameer had a “frank conversation” on the issue, according to a tweet by the Indian external affairs minister. Zameer said in a post on X that they also discussed the progress of ongoing development projects in the Maldives, and the cooperation within SAARC and NAM. He added that they were committed to further strengthening and expanding their ties.
The meeting came amid growing tensions between the two countries, which have traditionally enjoyed close and friendly relations. The Maldives has recently tilted towards China, which has invested heavily in the island nation’s infrastructure and tourism sectors. China has also backed the Maldives’ call for a moratorium on debt repayments amid the COVID-19 pandemic, while India has expressed its reservations.
The Maldives’ request for troop withdrawal has also drawn criticism from the opposition parties in the Maldives, which accuse Muizzu of undermining the country’s democracy and security. They have urged India to ignore the request and continue its support for the Maldivian people.
The issue is likely to remain a thorny one in the bilateral relations, as both sides try to balance their strategic interests and domestic pressures. The outcome of the upcoming parliamentary elections in the Maldives, scheduled for March 24, could also have an impact on the situation.