Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu sets March 15 deadline for withdrawal of Indian military personnel 

Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu sets March 15 deadline for Indian troops to withdraw from his nation. Photo Courtesy: Maldives President website.

Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu has set a March 15 deadline for India to withdraw its military personnel from the country, an episode that may further escalate tension between the two nations.

In recent days, the relationship between India and Maldives has heated up over remarks made by ministers of the Island Nation against Narendra Modi over his visit to Lakshadeep to promote tourism in the Union Territory.

This directive was communicated by Abdulla Nazim Ibrahim, the Public Policy Secretary at the Presidential Office, during a news conference where he announced the decisions made during the Cabinet meeting, reported The Edition.

“The ongoing discussions are centred around this motion,” stated Ibrahim.

Maldives and India formed a high-level core group to negotiate the withdrawal of troops.

Ibrahim was quoted as saying by Sun news portal of Maldives: “Indian military personnel cannot stay in the Maldives. This is the policy of President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu and that of this administration.”

The fresh development also occurred just days after Mohamed Muizzu visited China and met President Xi Jinping.

Mohamed Muizzu is considered close to Beijing.

He came to power banking on his “India Out” campaign.

According to media reports, 88 Indian military personnel are currently present in Maldives.

India-Maldives diplomatic row

A diplomatic row erupted between India and Maldives after certain Maldivian politicians, including ministers, made disparaging remarks about Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The ministers opened a verbal attack, saying that it was an attempt to divert tourists from the island country.

After India raised the issue with the Maldives, three ministers were removed from their positions on January 7.

On the following day, the Maldivian representative to India was summoned to the External Affairs Ministry, where strong reservations were conveyed over derogatory social media posts targeting PM Modi.

The comments made by Maldives’ ministers have stirred discontent among Indians, leading to the cancellation of their scheduled vacations to the island nation.

Amid the escalating tensions, EaseMyTrip, an online travel company, opted to suspend flight bookings to the Maldives.

Air connectivity increased to Lakshadeep

Alliance Air recently announced two more flights to the Island Nation which is also seen as a possible competitor to Maldives.

It is the only Indian airline which operates from Kochi (Kerala) to Agatti.

Muizzu tries to promote Maldives tourism during China visit

Notably, President Muizzu of the Maldives, who was on a state visit to China, has urged the nation to “intensify” efforts in attracting more tourists to the island.

“China was our (Maldives’) number one market pre-Covid, and it is my request that we intensify efforts for China to regain this position,” according to a readout posted on his official website.

In October of the previous year, the Maldivian President won the elections riding on his “India Out” campaign, during which he promised the withdrawal of Indian troops from the archipelago.