The president-elect of the Maldives, Mohamed Muiz, has reiterated his commitment to fulfil his campaign promise of removing Indian military personnel stationed in the island chain nation.
The Maldives comprises 1,200 coral islands strategically located along the main shipping route between the East and the West, and it continues to be a focal point in the evolving dynamics of regional power politics in the Indian Ocean.
Speaking at a celebration of his election victory on Monday night, Muiz assured his supporters that he would initiate the process. He firmly stated that he would not tolerate the presence of foreign military forces in the Maldives against the will of its citizens.
"The people have told us that they don't want foreign military here," Muiz said as he echoed a sentiment that had been a focal point of his election campaign.
This announcement poses a serious geopolitical challenge to India in its ongoing rivalry with China in the Indian Ocean region.
The Maldives' presidential run-off election held on Saturday was seen as a de facto referendum on which regional power—India or China—would wield the greatest influence over the archipelago.
Outgoing President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, who assumed office in 2018, faced allegations from Muiz that he had allowed India an unchecked presence in the country.
Muiz's party, the People’s National Congress, has been seen as favouring closer ties with China.
His campaign revolved around his concerns regarding the sovereignty of the Maldives, particularly in light of the alleged presence of Indian military personnel on one of the islands.
His party had long advocated for an "India out" strategy.
President Solih, however, contended that the Indian military’s presence in the Maldives was solely for the purpose of building a dockyard pursuant to an agreement between the two governments and that this cooperation would not compromise the nation's sovereignty.
The exact number of Indian troops stationed in the Maldives remains undisclosed, fuelling suspicion and rumours regarding their role and influence.
Known activities of the Indian military in the Maldives include operating two donated helicopters and participating in rescue missions during maritime emergencies.