04 Dec 2023, 12:57

Maldives says India has agreed to withdraw troops

NEW DELHI, Dec 4, 2023 (BSS/AFP) - India has agreed to withdraw its troops 
from the Maldives, the president of the strategically located archipelago has 
said, meeting a promise he made ahead of recent elections.

President Mohamed Muizzu was elected in September as a proxy for a pro-China 
predecessor jailed on corruption charges, but has said his intention is not 
to upend the regional balance by replacing Indian forces with Chinese troops.

"After a series of constructive meetings and dialogues with the Indian 
government, an agreement has been reached to withdraw Indian military 
personnel," a statement from the president's office said late Sunday.

Indian personnel are deployed to operate three gifted aircraft patrolling the 
maritime territory.

Primarily known as one of the most expensive holiday destinations in South 
Asia, with pristine white beaches and secluded resorts, the Maldives has also 
become a geopolitical hotspot.

Global east-west shipping lanes pass the nation's chain of 1,192 tiny coral 
islands, stretching around 800 kilometres (500 miles) across the equator.

Muizzu's office said the agreement for the withdrawal of troops was "in 
progress at a technical level".

It stressed its "commitment to employing diplomatic channels as the primary 
instrument to ensure the absence of foreign military presence on its soil".

It did not give any timeframe for the withdrawal, and there was no immediate 
response from New Delhi on Monday.

It followed a meeting between Muizzu and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi 
on the sidelines of COP28 in Dubai.

"Both the leaders... agreed to establish a high-level committee... tasked 
with coordinating efforts to address the challenges associated with ongoing 
development projects in the Maldives", the Maldives added.