President Mohamed Muizzu of the Maldives on Sunday announced that the Indian government has consented to the withdrawal of its soldiers from the island nation.
India and the Maldives reached an agreement on Friday to establish a core group, aiming to strengthen their partnership.
The meeting occurred shortly after President Muizzu urged India to withdraw 77 Indian military personnel from the nation and opted to reassess over 100 bilateral agreements between the two countries.
According to an Indian Express report, President Muizzu told the media, "In the discussions we had, the Indian government has agreed to remove Indian soldiers."
India has supplied the island nation with two helicopters and an aircraft for the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) to use in emergency medical evacuations and disaster relief operations. To operate these platforms, there are currently 77 Indian military personnel stationed in the Maldives.
Muizzu’s request came when India’s Union Minister Kiren Rejiju paid a courtesy call on the new president at the latter’s office on November 18.
Maldives is India’s key maritime neighbour in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and occupies a special place in the Prime Minister’s vision of ‘SAGAR’ (Security and Growth for All in the Region) and the ‘Neighbourhood First Policy’.
Maldives’ proximity to the west coast of India (barely 70 nautical miles away from Minicoy and 300 nautical miles away from India’s West coast), and its location at the hub of commercial sea lanes running through the Indian Ocean gives it significant strategic importance to India.
Forming a core group
During a "productive" meeting, Prime Minister Narendra Modi engaged with the newly-elected Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu, exploring avenues to enhance bilateral friendship across various sectors.
The decision to set up the core group was taken at the first meeting between Prime Minister Modi and President Muizzu on the sidelines of the COP28 World Climate Action Summit here.
"President @MMuizzu and I had a productive meeting today. We discussed ways to enhance the India-Maldives friendship across diverse sectors. We look forward to working together to deepen cooperation for the benefit of our people,” Modi tweeted after the meeting.
According to the Prime Minister's Office, the two leaders discussed ways to further bolster India-Maldives relations in sectors pertaining to economic relations, development cooperation and people-to-people ties.
A close associate of former Maldives President Abdulla Yameen, who forged close ties with China during his Presidency from 2013 to 2018, Muizzu, 45, defeated India-friendly incumbent Ibrahim Mohamed Solih in the presidential runoff held in September.
On Friday, Modi personally congratulated Muizzu on his assumption of office as the President of Maldives.
"Both leaders reviewed the wide-ranging bilateral relations between the two countries including people-to-people linkages, development cooperation, economic relations, climate change and sports,” the external affairs ministry said in a statement.
“The two leaders also discussed ways to further deepen their partnership. In this regard, they agreed to set up a core group,” the statement said.