Sylhet Today 24 PRINT

Maldives: Opposition Leader Debunks Indian Military Presence Claims, Casts Doubt on Government’s Honesty

Andrew Richards |  ২৬ ফেব্রুয়ারী, ২০২৪

Abdulla Shahid. Photo: MDP

Abdulla Shahid, the newly elected President of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and former Foreign Minister, has publicly refuted claims regarding the presence of “thousands of Indian military personnel” in the Maldives, stating that the current administration’s inability to provide specific numbers stems from the fact that there are no armed foreign soldiers stationed in the country.

Shahid’s comments come in the wake of accusations directed at the MDP by the current government, alleging the previous administration had permitted Indian soldiers to be based in the Maldives, thereby compromising national sovereignty.

These allegations played a significant role in the MDP’s defeat in the 2023 presidential election to President Dr Mohamed Muizzu’s Progressive Party of Maldives-People’s National Congress (PPM-PNC) coalition, which campaigned heavily on an “India Out” narrative.

Shahid criticised the current administration for perpetuating falsehoods to garner support, emphasising that their failure to disclose any agreements with India or evidence of Indian military presence validates the MDP’s stance that such allegations were baseless.

He argued that the inability to prove the existence of Indian soldiers or to reveal purportedly sovereignty-threatening clauses in agreements with India raises questions about the integrity of these claims.

The controversy over the Indian military presence has been a focal point of political discourse in the Maldives. Despite initial claims of thousands of armed soldiers, the government has been opaque regarding their exact numbers, citing security and classification concerns.

However, President Muizzu last week announced that an agreement has been signed with India for the withdrawal of military personnel by 10 May, with the first batch departing by 10 March. This move, aimed at fulfilling a key campaign promise, involves replacing military personnel with qualified civilians to operate emergency response aircraft gifted by India.

During the presidential campaign, President Muizzu had promised that Maldivian locals would be trained to take over the operations of these aircraft, a statement that the opposition now criticises as merely a superficial change rather than a fulfilment of the pledge to remove Indian military presence.

The opposition’s critique underscores a broader concern regarding the government’s commitment to its pre-election promises and the transparency of its actions concerning foreign military presence.

The administration’s ambiguity over the exact number of stationed Indian soldiers has only added to the controversy. Initial government reports disclosed the presence of 77 Indian troops, a figure which was later adjusted to 89, including military doctors stationed at Senahiya.

Despite these disclosures, the government has not provided a definitive count, citing varying numbers from different agencies and downplaying the significance of an exact tally. The President’s Office has defended this stance, asserting that the disclosed numbers are based on available information and that the situation is not perceived as a threat to national security by relevant institutions.

The debate extends beyond the presence of military personnel to the broader implications for Maldivian foreign policy and international relations. Shahid warned that constructing foreign policy on unfounded claims could erode trust and negatively impact the Maldives’ relations with other nations, including India.

Source: mvrepublic

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