MALE: In a significant policy shift, newly inaugurated Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu has declared his intention to expel foreign military personnel from the country. Muizzu, considered to be more pro-China than his predecessor Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, emphasized his commitment to clear lines of independence and sovereignty while maintaining friendships with countries close and far away.
During his inauguration, Muizzu, representing the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), stated, “The foreign military presence will be removed.” He expressed his determination to pursue trade relations with both China and India, acknowledging the strategic competition for influence in the region between the two regional powerhouses.
The Maldives has been a focal point in the power play between India and China, with both nations seeking to assert greater influence in the archipelago. Muizzu’s victory in September marked a departure from the “India first” policy of his predecessor Solih, who sought closer ties with India. Analysts view Muizzu’s stance as a potential setback for Indian influence in the region.
Maldives President Aims to Foster Greater Economic Ties with China
Critiquing Solih’s trade policy as skewed in favor of India, Muizzu campaigned on a promise of fostering greater economic ties with China. His victory is seen as aligned with Beijing’s interests.
Michael Kugelman, South Asia director at the Wilson Center, noted, “Muizzu’s campaign plank was not only about strengthening ties with Beijing, it was also about aiming to undermine India by calling for an end to any Indian military presence in Maldives.”
India currently has about 75 military personnel stationed in the Maldives. While Muizzu has indicated a desire to balance economic relations between India and China, the relations with India are expected to remain largely cordial. After the election, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi reaffirmed India’s commitment to strengthening bilateral ties with the Maldives.
Representatives from both India and China attended Muizzu’s inauguration, signaling the strategic importance of the Maldives in the geopolitical landscape.
President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu delivered his inaugural address upon assumption of office.
“The policies of the Maldives Government must be based on the interests of the Maldivian people. I am a Maldivian. For me, Maldivian citizens come first in the list. The very first." pic.twitter.com/hORJygN081
— The President's Office (@presidencymv) November 17, 2023