Mohammed Muizzu

Muizzu’s Stance on India in Spotlight Ahead of Oath Ceremony

Ever since Mohammed Muizzu won the presidential election in Maldives, there has been a lot of discussion about his relations with India.

The statements made during Muizzu’s election campaign and after winning the election made it clear that he was upset with India.

Muizzu had run an ‘India Out’ campaign during his election campaign and after winning the election, he said that the Indian soldiers present in Maldives would have to leave. These statements of Muizzu portrayed his image as anti-India and pro-China.

Now Mohammed Muizzu is going to take oath as the President on November 17 and representatives of 46 countries around the world are gathering for this swearing-in ceremony.

Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe has also arrived in the Maldivian capital Male to attend the oath-taking ceremony.

In the headlines:

  • Muizzu described himself as pro-Maldives
  • Indian military presence in Maldives
  • India became a major election issue
  • Reactions from India so far

Muizzu wants the Indian soldiers to be sent back from Maldives as soon as possible. He seems committed to improving relations with India, unlike his predecessor Ibrahim Solih.

The media in Maldives has also prominently covered the news of Minister of State Jitendra Singh attending Muizzu’s oath-taking ceremony and the bitterness that has crept into relations between the two countries.

The leading Maldivian newspaper The Sun wrote in its report, “Muizzu will take over the command of Maldives at a ceremony organized in the Republic Square in the capital Male. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was invited to attend the ceremony. But PM Modi did not accept the invitation because he had to attend events related to the Global South Summit and G20 Summit.”

“Muizzu had promised during the election campaign that if he became president, he would remove the Indian soldiers from Maldives. Muizzu’s election promise was seen as a pro-China policy. However, Muizzu has described himself as pro-Maldives in response to allegations of being pro-China.”

The Sun wrote, “Muizzu wants the Indian soldiers to be sent back from Maldives as soon as possible. Unlike his predecessor Ibrahim Solih, he does not seem committed to improving relations with India.”

The Maldivian news website wrote in its report that sending back the Indian soldiers from Maldives will be a priority as soon as Muizzu assumes power as president.

According to this report, Muizzu announced his key agendas for the first 100 days last night.

Muizzu said that as soon as he takes over as president, he will start the process of sending back the Indian soldiers from Maldives.

After winning the election, Muizzu met the Indian envoy in Maldives twice. Muizzu had said that he had an extensive discussion with the Indian envoy on several issues. Muizzu described the conversation as “very positive and constructive.”

While there is a lot of talk about sending back Indian soldiers from Maldives, the Maldivian government is not revealing how many Indian soldiers are present in Maldives.

The English newspaper The Edition in the Maldives quoted a statement by Abdullah Abdul Rahim, Director General of Transition and Chairperson in Maldives’ People’s Congress, in one of its reports. In the statement, he said it is unclear how many Indian soldiers are present in the Maldives.

According to The Edition, Abdul Rahim said, “We are not in a position to state the exact number. It is a fact that Indian soldiers are present in Maldives but the correct number is not known. Indian soldiers are present in different parts of Maldives.”

The Hindu wrote in its report, “India’s military presence in the Indian Ocean is not new. Indian naval and air force personnel have been present on the Addu and Lammu atolls since 2013.”

“In November 2021, the Maldives National Defense Force told a parliamentary committee that a total of 75 Indian military personnel are present in Maldives. In February 2021, opposition parties in Maldives protested against the Maritime Security Agreement with India.”

There was also controversy over the two helicopters India gave to Maldives. The Abdullah Yameen government had asked in 2018 to take back the two navy helicopters gifted by India. India had given these helicopters to Maldives for relief and rescue operations.

Election Issues Cause By India

India emerged as a major issue in the recently concluded presidential election in Maldives. The opposition raised it vigorously and its claim was that India is interfering in the internal affairs of Maldives.

In an interview given to PSM or Public Service Media last week, Mohammed Muizzu who won the presidential election had said that the withdrawal of Indian soldiers from Maldives will not happen by shouting on the streets but by making it possible through diplomacy.

In this interview, Muizzu said, “Indian soldiers will be sent back through peaceful dialogue and democratic rules. We will do what is in the interest of both countries.”

“Maldives and India are close countries and cannot be separated from each other. We have received a lot of help from India in the past. We are still getting help from there. Relations with India will remain good in the future as well.”

Muizzu said, “It is not that we want them to leave just because there are Indian soldiers, that is not the reason. Whether it is India or any other country, the people of Maldives have decided that they do not want soldiers of other countries on their land, whatever the purpose may be. We will start working in this direction soon and will succeed.”

India’s Reaction

India has reacted very calmly to these aggressive statements by Muizzu.

Last month, when asked, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said, “Our High Commissioner met with the newly elected President in Male. Both had a good conversation on various issues.”

“The discussion also included issues related to mutual cooperation and bilateral relations. The focus of our partnership with Maldives is on shared challenges and priorities. As a neighbor, it is important for us to work together.”

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