NEW DELHI: Though the newly-elected Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu has formally requested India to withdraw its soldiers, they continue to remain there for the present. In addition, there is confusion on the exact number of Indian military personnel in the island nation.
"The removal of Indian soldiers from Maldives was one of the pledges of President Muizzu. He said it during his first speech as President. However, there is no date on when this will be done. The feeling in Male is that after the conversation President Muizzu had with PM Modi on the sidelines of COP 28 in Dubai, this has been put on the backburner," said a source. Muizzu got elected on October 1 and took his oath on November 18.
There are 24 Indian military personnel managing a chopper, 25 managing a Dornier and 26 managing a second Dornier in the Maldives. In addition, there are two more for maintenance and engineering, bringing the total to 77.
Though President Muizzu on his return from Dubai said that India would withdraw its troops, he also said that the numbers could have increased from 77 to 89 and could rise further – adding to the confusion.
"When President Muizzu met India’s Earth Sciences Minister Kiren Rijiju in Male in November, he acknowledged India’s contribution through the services of these aircrafts and chopper for medical evacuation of Maldivian citizens. They are also on standby for any eventuality for international tourists and also help in monitoring and combating drug trafficking. Thereby, if the Maldivian government wants to continue these services, they will have to keep the personnel as well," said the source.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ahmed Abdulla called for an emergency motion during their parliamentary session.
"During the emergency motion Ahmed demanded that if an agreement had been made regarding the withdrawal of Indian troops, it should be made public. The emergency motion was accepted in the Parliament by 33 out of 36 members who took part in the vote. Ahmed also said that different officials had different numbers of the Indian soldiers and wanted the exact number to be made public," added the source.
"How many Indian soldiers are here in the Maldives on military visas, where have their weapons been stored, which Maldivian island or region are these armed soldiers based – all that information should be made public," demanded Ahmed.
Interestingly, President Muizzu has also had a rift with his mentor and former President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom – which whose support he won the elections. It may be recalled that the India Out campaign was anchored by Yameen. Yameen has since floated a new party called the People’s National Front (PNF).