Withdraw troops by mid-March, Maldives tells India

Male, Jan 14 : Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu has asked India to withdraw its military personnel from the Indian Ocean archipelago nation by mid-March, officials said on Sunday afternoon.

President Muizzu has formally asked India to withdraw its military personal, estimated to amount to 88, by March 15, President’s Office’s Secretary, Public Policy, Abdulla Nazim Ibrahim told the press in a briefing in the afternoon, the Sun (Maldives) reported.

A high-level core group, set by both nations, to negotiate the withdrawal of troops held its first meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Male on Sunday morning with Indian High Commissioner Munu Mahawar present, he said, adding that the agenda for the meeting was the request to withdraw troops by mid-March.

“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, during his presidential campaign, asserted that he would accomplish the removal of Indian troops from the Maldives, and had made a formal request to India to withdraw its military personnel soon after assuming office.

Amid the row over three junior ministers’ allegedly derogatory remarks against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi over his Lakshwadeep visit, the Maldives President, talking to press on Saturday after his return from a five-day state visit to China, without naming India, made a further jab at it.

“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 told reporters 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 and vowed that he will not allow any external influence on the domestic affairs of the Maldives.



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