Rijiju Meets Maldives
A day after attending his inaugural ceremony, Indian Union Minister Kiren Rijiju on Saturday met the new Maldivian President Dr Mohamed Muizzu and reiterated India's commitment to further strengthen the substantive bilateral cooperation and robust people-to-people ties.
Muizzu, 45, took oath on Friday as the eighth president of the strategically-located archipelago nation in the Indian Ocean. Underscoring India's Neighbourhood First Policy', Rijiju represented the country at Muizzu's inauguration ceremony.
Privileged to call on President H.E. Dr. Mohamed Muizzu. Conveyed greetings from Hon'ble PM @NarendraModi and reiterated India's commitment to further strengthen the substantive bilateral cooperation and robust people-to-people ties, Rijiju posted on X after the meeting.
A close associate of former Maldives President Abdulla Yameen, who forged close ties with China during his Presidency from 2013 to 2018, Muizzu defeated India-friendly incumbent Ibrahim Mohamed Solih in the presidential runoff held in September.
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 situation at the hub of commercial sea lanes running through the Indian Ocean gives it significant strategic importance to India. Rijiju also visited a 4,000 social housing units project at Hulhumale in Maldives, where, India's Exim Bank and NBCC (India) Limited, an infra-construction company under the government of India's Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs, and a private Indian company has partnered with government of Maldives to provide affordable and inclusive housing for all.
Earlier, late on Friday evening, Rijiju also attended the inaugural reception, hosted by President Muizzu and First Lady Sajidha Mohamed for the visiting dignitaries at Kurumba Maldives after the oath-taking ceremony. Thanks to H.E. President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu @MMuizzu for hosting an official banquet for the dignitaries and provided us a glimpse of the famed Maldivian hospitality, he posted on X with colourful photos from the event.
New Maldives President skips India for first official visit
Mohamed Muizzu, the new president of the Maldives, has broken with tradition by travelling to Turkey for his first official visit. This has attracted attention since previous leaders of the island nation have chosen India as their first port of call, given the close relationship between the two countries. Mint breaks down the issue.
What is the situation?
Mohamed Muizzu, who took charge as president of the Maldives earlier this month, chose to visit Turkey for his official visit. Newly elected Maldivian leaders have generally chosen to visit India first as it has long been the security and trade partner of choice for the island nation. However, Muizzu has made a point of projecting a more balanced foreign-policy position.
He recently asked India to withdraw its military personnel in the Maldives, and the latest development is being seen as another push to court new partners and diversify the country's diplomatic relationships.
What is Turkey?s relationship with the Maldives?
Experts point out that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has tried to raise his country's profile in South Asia, particularly in Bangladesh and Afghanistan. He has also intervened on matters of crucial interest to India, such as Kashmir. With Erdogan pushing a pan-Islamic foreign policy, inviting the Maldivian president to Turkey makes strategic sense. The two sides discussed trade and defence cooperation during Muizzu's visit.
What does this mean for India?
The development is another reminder of how much India's strategic backyard has changed. While countries like the Maldives were once seen as firmly in the India's sphere of influence, matters have since become more complicated. The increased presence of the United States and China in the Indian Ocean has made it clear that India's neighbours are much sought after as geopolitical allies. India's approach to these countries will have to change accordingly. Turkey's overtures show that even middling powers located half a world away can woo key Indian partners.
How will India react?
New Delhi has made clear that it would prefer to continue strong engagement with the Maldives. The country is strategically located in the Indian Ocean and India will not want to risk its position as a leading partner. Faced with increased pressure from China, India has responded by, among other things, funding big connectivity projects. In short, India has focused on increasing its attractiveness as a partner.
However, it is not above showing displeasure. When Muizzu invited Prime Minister Narendra Modi to his inauguration he sent a cabinet minister instead, which seen as a diplomatic snub.
Source: Live Mint
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Why Pro-China President Muizzu is Committed to Oust Indian Troops from Maldives
Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu on Saturday formally requested India to withdraw its military troops from the country saying the Maldivian people have given him a “strong mandate” to make this request to New Delhi.
The statement comes within 24 hours after Muizzu, an engineer-turned-politician, took oath on Friday as the eighth president of the strategically-located archipelago nation in the Indian Ocean.
Maldives President had a meeting with Union minister Kiren Rijiju, where he maintained that he would keep his election promise of evicting Indian military personnel from his country.
The request to withdraw Indian personnel didn't surprise many as Muizzu, during the election campaign, had repeatedly indicated that the withdrawal of Indian military troops from the island nation is among the issues that need to be resolved by the two countries.
President Mohamed Muizzu was elected Maldives' eighth president last year, after receiving 54 per cent of the vote against his predecessor Ibrahim Mohamed Solih's 46 per cent.
The election was seen a virtual referendum on which regional power – China or India – will have better relations with the island nation in the Indian Ocean.
Muizzu, from the Progressive Alliance – a coalition of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and the People's National Congress (PNC), is considered pro-China. His opponent former President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih had good ties with New Delhi and the bilateral relations progressed between the two nations under Solih's rule.
Muizzu, a former mayor of the capital Male and a construction minister for seven years, is a close associate of former Maldives President Abdulla Yameen. Yameen is known for his pro-China approach and repugnance for India as he believes that New Delhi played a role in his defeat during the 2018 Presidential elections.
Muizzu also promised to cultivate “strong ties” with China like his ally Yameen, who forged close ties with Beijing during his Presidency from 2013 to 2018.
During the election campaign, he not only indicated the withdrawal of Indian military troops but also asserted that he was firmly committed to ensuring that his country remains “free” of any “foreign military presence” to preserve its independence and sovereignty.
How did Maldives become a geopolitical hotspot?
Famously known as one of the most expensive holiday destinations in South Asia, with pristine white beaches and secluded resorts, Maldives has also become a geopolitical hotspot as it is located strategically on the shipping route connecting East and West.
Maldivian foreign policy become a partisan domestic political issue, with parties either leaning toward China or India. Maldives leaned towards China under President Abdullah Yameen Gayoom, who was in office from 2013 to 2018.
In 2017, during Yameen's visit to China, the island nation agreed to join China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The development initiative is meant to build railroads, ports and highways to expand trade — and China's influence — across Asia, Africa and Europe. Since then, Maldives has reportedly borrowed hundreds of millions of dollars from China.
However, after the 2018 elections, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih's came to power and rebuild strong ties with India. India, which sees the island nation as a key part of the Indian Ocean, has provided about $2 billion in development assistance to the country, according to BBC.
However, when Muizzu won the presidential poll, it was seen as a setback for India-Maldives ties as the progress made under Solih since 2018 suddenly backtracked.
Before winning the elections, Muizz told the Chinese Communist Party a year ago that he wanted stronger ties with Beijing should his Progressive Party win the 2023 elections.
How Many Indian Soldiers are Present in Maldives?
The number of Indian troops in the Maldives is not publicly known. Muizzu's Progressive Alliance has portrayed Solih's India-first policy as a threat to the Maldives' sovereignty and security.
As per experts, the secrecy in the agreement between India and Solih's government regarding the role and number of Indian military personnel has led to suspicion and rumours.
In 2021, the Maldivian defence force said about 75 Indian military personnel were based in the country to operate and maintain the Indian aircraft. India reportedly operates two Indian-donated helicopters and assists in search and rescue operations for people stranded or facing calamities at sea.
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