Maldives still needs India’s partnership, despite shifting ‘dynamics’ in Delhi-Malé ties, troop withdrawal
Malé is not expected to completely reject security help from New Delhi, which is in turn keen to remain a traditional developmental partner with the island nation, even as both sides hammer out details of an Indian troop withdrawal from Maldivian territory.
After a five-day visit to China last month on his first state trip since taking office in November, Muizzu – who won the election after campaigning on an “India Out” platform – called for the withdrawal of Indian troops by March 15.
The first group of Indian troops will leave by March 10 and the rest by May 10, the Maldivian capital said, citing an agreement at a high-level meeting in the Indian capital last Friday.
Noting that the issue for Malé “is the presence of any foreign military in the Maldives, not only India’s”, Nilanthi Samaranayake, visiting academic at the South Asia programmes at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) think tank, said the current discussion about Maldives tilting to China suggests that there are only two options for Male.
“But Muizzu’s foreign policy appears to be aimed more fundamentally at expanding Maldives’ base of partners,” she said, adding that these include deeper connections to the Middle East such as through the president’s visit to Turkey in November.
During the visit, Malé reached a US$37 million deal with a Turkish company for the acquisition of military drones to conduct maritime surveillance and patrols, a move widely seen as an attempt to reduce dependence on Indian military that conduct surveillance in the Indian Ocean Region.
Last month, Muizzu also met with the commander of the US Indo-Pacific Command, where Admiral John Aquilino reiterated his commitment to strengthen capacity building in the Maldivian defence force.