Maldives President asks India to pull out troops by March 15 amid China’s tilt

Mohammed Muizzu with Xi Jinping

New Delhi: The President of Maldives, Mohammed Muizzu, has issued an ultimatum to India to withdraw its military personnel from the island nation by March 15. The move comes amid a growing closeness between Maldives and China, following the President’s first state visit to Beijing after his election.

The relations between India and Maldives have soured in recent months after some Maldivian ministers insulted Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to Lakshadweep, an archipelago off the coast of Kerala. The Indian government expressed its displeasure over the remarks, which were also condemned by the opposition parties in Maldives. Three Maldivian ministers were dismissed from their posts over the incident, but the President defended his stance, saying that Maldives was a sovereign country and would not tolerate any interference or bullying from anyone.

The President’s visit to China last week further strained the ties between the two neighbors, as he signed several agreements with Chinese President Xi Jinping, including one to upgrade the diplomatic relations to a strategic partnership. China has been investing heavily in Maldives, building infrastructure projects, and expanding its influence in the Indian Ocean region. India, on the other hand, has been providing security and humanitarian assistance to Maldives and has stationed some of its troops there as part of a bilateral agreement.

Mohammed Muizzu with Xi Jinping

The President’s demand to remove the Indian troops from Maldives has raised concerns over the stability and security of the region, as well as the future of the bilateral cooperation between the two countries. India has not yet responded to the ultimatum but has reiterated its commitment to friendship and partnership with the Maldives.