Chinese soldiers will not replace Indians: Maldives leader – World ReadingS


MALÉ (Maldives): Maldives’ new president Mohamed Muizzu vowed to expel Indian troops after taking office this week, but said: AFP instead, it does not want to redraw the regional balance by bringing in Chinese forces.

“The Maldives are too small to be involved in geopolitical competition,” the president-elect said in an interview about the strategically located Indian Ocean archipelago. “I’m not really interested in involving the foreign policy of the Maldives in this matter.”

Muizzu’s electoral success in September depended on the campaign against India’s undue political and economic influence in the Maldives, and in particular on his promise to dislodge Indian forces.

But he said he would not allow China or any other country to replace them and denied reports that he was closer to Beijing. He insists that he is merely “pro-Maldive.”

The 45-year-old leader, who will take office on Friday, said in a statement at his home in the capital Male, “We will work together with India, China and all other countries.”

Known as one of South Asia’s most expensive holiday destinations for its pristine beaches and secluded resorts, the Maldives has also become a geopolitical hotspot.

Global east-west shipping lanes pass through the country’s chain of 1,192 small coral islands scattered about 800 kilometers (500 miles) along the equator.

Muizzu was seen as a proxy for pro-China former president Abdulla Yameen, who until his 2018 defeat had largely shifted the country into Beijing’s orbit.

Muizzu said he hoped to begin formal talks with New Delhi on the withdrawal of an estimated 50 to 75 Indian personnel, a sensitive campaign issue.

“The people of the Maldives did not vote for me to allow any military presence in the Maldives,” the British-educated civil engineer added.

“So we are talking to the Indian government to eliminate them and I am sure we can do it peacefully and democratically.”

Muizzu said his mission was to relieve a unit of Indian security personnel assigned to operate three gifted aircraft to patrol the Maldives’ vast maritime region.

“I do not want Indian troops to leave our country to make room for any other country to bring its troops here,” he said.

Regional power India considered the Maldives, with its population of around 380,000 Sunni Muslims, within its sphere of influence, but was concerned about China’s expanding footprint during Yameen’s rule.

New Delhi has a complicated history with Male, including the deployment of troops to thwart a 1988 coup attempt.

“It is very important for the Maldives that we put our interests first… we also want to work together with all countries, establish good friendly relations, cordial and cordial relations,” Muizzu said.

The party nominated Muizzu after Yameen was barred from running for office following his conviction for corruption during his five-year term, which saw a Chinese-financed construction drive in the country.

Muizzu, a former housing minister, is credited with implementing Chinese-funded infrastructure projects, including the construction of 7,000 apartments and a key bridge connecting the capital Male to the nearby airport island of Hulhule.

“We are located in a very strategic place where most of the sea lane runs through our country,” he said. .

Muizzu said he was confident of completing the ambitious expansion of the international airport in a bid to revive an economy hit by heavy debts and a decline in tourism during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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