Why Maldives leader wants Indian troops out of nation?
Addressing the inauguration event on his elevation as the president of the Maldives, Mohamed Muizzu said he will ensure that the small Island nation "has no foreign military presence on its soil".
Soon after, during a meeting with Indian Union Minister Kiren Rijiju, the President formally requested New Delhi to withdraw its military personnel.
Indian government sources have said the two sides have agreed to discuss "workable solutions" to continue the use of Indian military platforms by the island nation as they serve the interests of its people.
India has just about 70 soldiers in the island nations. These personnel operate India-sponsored radars and surveillance aircraft. Indian warships in the region help patrol the country's exclusive economic zone.
According to a statement issued by his office, President Dr Muizzu acknowledged the significant role of two Indian helicopters in numerous emergency medical evacuations.
But amid the growing strategic signficance of the Indian Ocean region and border tensions between key Asian players India and China, the island has become a geopolitical hotspot. While the Maldives President has stressed that it wants to work together with both India and China, he has underlined that the island nation is "too small to be entangled in geopolitical rivalry".
President Muizzu succeeds Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, whose tenure saw a boost in ties between the island nation and New Delhi. A former minister and Mayor of Male, President Muizzu is close to former president Abdulla Yameen, who borrowed heavily from Beijing during his tenure from 2013 to 2018.
Following his election to the top post, Muizzu has pushed for the withdrawal of Indian troops from the Maldives on the grounds of security.
He has clarified in an interview to AFP that he does not intend to upend the regional balance by replacing Indian military with Chinese troops.
The Maldives President is clearly trying to strike a fine balance in its ties with India and China.
In his meeting with Union Minister Rijiju, he discussed the progress in projects India is backing in the Maldives.