Maldives Orders Indian Officials To Leave By May 10 After Military Pact With China

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Maldives Orders Indian Officials To Leave By May 10 After Military Pact With China

Maldives has signed an agreement with China to get military aid from Beijing. (File)

Male, Maldives:

Stepping up his anti-India rhetoric, Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu has affirmed that no Indian military personnel, not even those in civilian clothing, would be present inside his country after May 10, a media report said today.

President Muizzu’s statement comes less than a week after an Indian civilian team reached the Maldives to take charge of one of the three aviation platforms in the island nation, well ahead of the March 10 deadline agreed by the two nations for the withdrawal of Indian military personnel.

Addressing the Baa atoll Eydhafushi residential community during his tour across the atoll, the President stated that due to his government’s success in expelling Indian troops from the country, people who spread false rumours, are attempting to twist the situation, a news portal Edition.mv reported.

“That these people [Indian military] are not departing, that they are returning after changing their uniforms into civilian clothing. We must not indulge such thoughts that instil doubts in our hearts and spread lies,” the portal quoted Mr Muizzu, widely regarded as a China-backed leader, as saying.

“There will be no Indian troops in the country come May 10. Not in uniform and not in civilian clothing. The Indian military will not be residing in this country in any form of clothing. I state this with confidence,” he said, on a day when his country signed an agreement with China to receive free military aid.

Earlier last month, after a high-level meeting in Delhi on February 2 between the two sides, the Maldivian foreign ministry said India would replace its military personnel operating the three aviation platforms in the Maldives by May 10 and the first phase of the process would be completed by March 10.

In his maiden address to Parliament on February 5, he made similar remarks.

There are 88 military personnel manning the three Indian platforms that have been providing humanitarian and medical evacuation services to the people of the Maldives for the last few years using two helicopters and a Dornier aircraft.

Mr Muizzu rode to power last year on an anti-India stance and within hours of taking oath demanded India to remove its personnel from the strategically located archipelago in the Indian Ocean.

Edition.mv further reported that while the first troops to depart the country are the Indian military personnel operating the two helicopters in Addu City, the military personnel present in Haa Dhaalu atoll Hanimaadhoo and Laamu atoll Kahdhoo are also expected to leave ahead of May 10.

India had agreed to remove their troops from Maldives under the condition that a number of their civilians equivalent to the military presence are brought to operate the aircraft.

The Opposition has been directing criticism at the administration asserting that the Indian personnel sent to Maldives as civilians are in reality military officials out of uniform and that the government has no way to ascertain otherwise, the portal claimed.

Meanwhile, local media reports also said that Maldives has successfully tied up with Sri Lanka to run flights for medical evacuation last week, further indicating that it is bent on removing all Indian troops in whichever category.

Further highlighting that securing true independence is a concept he regards with utmost priority, the President remarked that the State is exerting efforts with due importance “to regain the southern maritime area deprived of the country in addition to expelling Indian troops from the Maldives.”

“I am confident we can achieve this. The delay in concluding this task is due to the adverse procedures practiced during the implementation. It was done without even taking the matter to the parliament … in violation of the Constitution as well,” the portal quoted the President as saying.

The Maldives’ proximity to India, barely 70 nautical miles from the island of Minicoy in Lakshadweep and 300 nautical miles from the mainland’s western coast, and its location at the hub of commercial sea lanes running through the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) gives it significant strategic importance.

The Maldives has been India’s key maritime neighbour in the IOR and it occupies a special place in its initiatives such as SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region) and the Neighbourhood First Policy.’
 

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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