Maldives government says 51 Indian soldiers ‘repatriated’ as deadline ends on May 10

Maldives says 51 Indian soldiers 'repatriated' as deadline ends on Friday
Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu. Photo Courtesy: Maldives President website

The Maldives government on Monday said 51 Indian soldiers have been repatriated as the deadline set by the Island Nation to New Delhi to remove its army men is scheduled to end on Friday.

The Chief Spokesperson of the President’s Office Heena Waleed, in response to media questions regarding the issue, said a total of 51 Indian soldiers have been repatriated so far, Maldives’ Sun news portal reported.

She did not reveal the exact number of Indian soldiers currently stationed in Maldives.

Diplomatic tensions reached a flashpoint in recent times between the two countries over remarks made by some Maldives ministers against Indian PM Narendra Modi’s visit to Lakshadweep, to promote the Indian Union Territory having the potential to compete with tourism major Maldives.

Last month, pro-China Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu’s People’s National Congress (PNC) took control of the Parliament by winning the election clinching over 60 of the total 93 seats, highlighting the Island Nation’s further tilt towards India’s hostile rival China.

The Maldives, which comprises some 1,192 tiny coral islands scattered across 800 kilometres (500 miles) on the equator, is considered as one of the top beach destinations in the world.

Apart from its scenic beauty, the country is known for its luxury hotels and water villas.

The pro-China Maldivian President faced massive domestic criticism for his anti-India stance as the main opposition parties of the country, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and the Democrats, slammed Muizzu for distancing from India, the island nation’s “most long-standing ally ” and source of tourists.

Besides expressing concern over the new foreign policy of Muizzu-led government in Maldives, the opposition parties took to the street in January in protest.

After Muizzu set a March 15 deadline for Indian military personnel to withdraw from the islands, India has begun pulling out.

Muizzu has spelt out that no Indian military personnel, not even those in civilian clothing, would be allowed inside his country after May 10. Muizzu asked India to withdraw 90-odd military personnel from the Maldives.

India has agreed to replace the military personnel with civilians and to continue the operations of two helicopters and a Dornier aircraft provided to the country for  humanitarian and medical evacuation services, media reports said.

Indian military personnel were sent to the Maldives at various times for training Maldivian troops, in both combat and reconnaissance and rescue-aid operations.

Muizzu alleged that his predecessor had compromised on national sovereignty by allowing Indian troops in the Maldivian islands.

However, the pro-China Maldives President has recently struck a reconciliatory tone and said India will continue to remain his country’s closest ally as he had to urge New Delhi to provide debt relief to the country.