New Delhi: Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu on Saturday met Union Minister of Earth Sciences Kiren Rijiju and "formally requested" the Indian government to withdraw its military personnel from the Maldives. Rijiju called on Muizzu, widely seen as a pro-China leader, at his office in Male, a day after attending the Maldivian leader's inauguration ceremony.
A statement released by the Maldivian president's office said Muizzu "formally requested the government of India to withdraw its military personnel from the Maldives" in the meeting. Muizzu has maintained that he will keep his election promise of evicting Indian military personnel from his country. "At the meeting, President Muizzu had formally requested the Government of India to withdraw its military personnel from the Maldives," the statement said.
"The President noted that at the presidential election held in September, the Maldivian people had given him a strong mandate to make the request to India and expressed the hope that India will honour the democratic will of the people of the Maldives," it added. The Indian government sources said Muizzu, in the meeting, brought up the issue of Indian military personnel present in the Maldives for operating aircraft for medical evacuation and to counter drug trafficking.
The president acknowledged the contribution of the Indian helicopters and aircraft for medical evacuation of Maldivian citizens, they said. "They are also central to the confidence that international tourists have in staying in remote islands. He appreciated their role in monitoring and combating drug trafficking," said a source.
"It was agreed that the two governments would discuss workable solutions for continued cooperation through the use of these platforms as this serves the interests of the people of the Maldives," it said. Incidentally, a Dornier aircraft given to Maldives by India on Saturday carried out a medical evacuation of a 36-year-old woman. The aircraft is being operated by Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF).
"A medical evacuation of a 36-year-old female in critical condition was carried out from Th. Atoll Hospital to Male' City by MNDF Central Area Command via MNDF Dornier Aircraft today at 17:04 hours," the MNDF said on X. The Maldives is one of India's key maritime neighbours in the Indian Ocean Region and the overall bilateral ties including in areas of defence and security have been on an upward trajectory under the government of Ibrahim Solih.
Muizzu defeated Solih in the presidential runoff in September. In its statement, the Maldivian president's office said Rijiju conveyed his best wishes to Muizzu, representing the sentiments of the government and the people of India. "The minister expressed his aspiration to foster a constructive relationship with the Maldives, acknowledging the presence of a vibrant Indian community residing in the Maldives," it said.
"At the meeting, President Muizzu had formally requested the Government of India to withdraw its military personnel from the Maldives," it said. "The President noted that at the presidential election held in September, the Maldivian people had given him a strong mandate to make the request to India and expressed the hope that India will honour the democratic will of the people of the Maldives," it said.
The readout said while discussing the matter with Rijiju, Muizzu also acknowledged the significant role of the two helicopters in providing numerous emergency medical evacuations. It said Muizzu and Rijiju also reviewed the progress of the implementation of various projects in the Maldives with the support of India.
"The President emphasised the importance of accelerating the Greater Male' Connectivity Project (GMCP), highlighting the importance of addressing and overcoming the issues delaying the project," it said. It said Muizzu and Rijiju concluded the meeting with a renewed commitment to "fortify" the bilateral relations between the two countries. (With Agency inputs)