Malé: The president-elect of the Maldives, Mohamed Muizzu, has said he will stick to his campaign promise to remove Indian military personnel stationed in the archipelago state, promising he would initiate the process.
Mohamed Muizzu told his supporters gathered at a celebration of his election victory that he wouldn’t stand for a foreign military staying in the Maldives against the will of its citizens.
Mohamed Muizzu, 45, won an “India-out” campaign after New Delhi placed a unit of forces’ personnel to operate four reconnaissance aircraft gifted to the Maldives to patrol its vast maritime territory.
“The people have told us that they don’t want foreign military here,” he said.
“We will be sending back military forces based in the Maldives according to law, and for sure we will do that accordingly,” Mohamed Muizzu said at the rally in the capital Malé on Monday night.
It’s a serious blow to India in its geopolitical rivalry with China in the Indian Ocean region, where the Maldives’ presidential run-off election on Saturday was seen as a virtual referendum on which of the regional powers would have the biggest influence on the archipelago.
Muizzu brushed aside media descriptions of him as a pro-China leader and said he will be “pro-Maldives”. “My top priority will be the Maldives and its situation,” he said. “We will be choosing to be pro-Maldives. Any country who respects and obeys our pro-Maldives policy is considered a close friend of the Maldives.”
Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, congratulated Mohamed Muizzu on Sunday. “New Delhi is “committed to strengthening the time-tested India-Maldives bilateral relationship,” Modi posted on social media platform X.
China congratulated Muizzu on Monday, saying it “respects the choice of the Maldivian people”. “China is willing to work with the Maldives to consolidate the traditional friendship, deepen mutually beneficial cooperation and push for continuous new progress,” China’s s foreign ministry said in a statement.
The Maldives, a chain of atolls scattered 800 kilometres (500 miles) across the equator and known for its upmarket beach resorts, straddles one of the world’s busiest east-west shipping lanes. Muizzu told a meeting with Chinese Communist Party officials last year that his party’s return to office would “script a further chapter of strong ties between our two countries”.