MALE, Maldives - The nationalistic fervor of President-elect Dr. Mohamed Muizzu shines through as he recently voiced his firm commitment to ensuring the Maldivian sovereignty remains uncompromised. In an exclusive interview with Reuters, Muizzu made it clear that the removal of Indian military personnel from the Maldivian shores is among his top foreign policy priorities.
Emerging victorious from last month's presidential election against incumbent President Ibrahim Solih, Muizzu has showcased a significant deviation from Solih's "India first" policy. The President-elect is determined to ensure no foreign military presence in the Maldives, emphasizing, "The focus is not on the actual number of military personnel here, it is on not having any at all in the Maldives."
With the scenic sun-kissed atolls and luxurious resorts, the Maldives, home to approximately 521,000 residents, has seen increased investments from Asian powerhouses, India and China, in recent years. Both nations aim to bolster their influence in the strategic Indian Ocean region. However, Dr. Muizzu is determined to maintain a balanced approach, as he stated, "I’m not pro-China or any country. My government will always be for Maldives."
While acknowledging the historical ties with India, Dr. Muizzu seeks to clarify the specifics of a naval harbour agreement signed with India. He expressed, "Of course we need development of the naval base and other military training grounds... but it doesn’t mean there should be a setup in which foreign military presence is required for its operations."
Dr. Muizzu's nationalistic vision does not limit Maldives' international relations. He is keen on nurturing strong and vibrant relationships with both developed and emerging economies. He emphasized the mutual respect and shared interests with India, aiming to enhance the stability and security of the Indian Ocean region.
China, with its recent infrastructure investments under its Belt and Road initiative, will also find an eager partner in Dr. Muizzu. He expressed his intention to engage not only with India and China but also with other nations to explore growth opportunities.
With plans to establish special economic zones and double tourism numbers in his tenure, Dr. Muizzu reiterated, "The Maldives will benefit immensely from having strong and vibrant relationships with the advanced economies as well as with emerging economic powers."