Maldives Presient Muizzu says surveillance of his country’s territory should not concern any “external parties”

The pro-China Maldivian leader's remarks came days after the first batch of Indian military personnel operating a helicopter gifted by India left the country

Updated - March 17, 2024 06:42 pm IST

Published - March 17, 2024 04:31 pm IST - Male

Maldives’ President Mohamed Muizzu. File Photo

Maldives’ President Mohamed Muizzu. File Photo | Photo Credit: AFP

Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu has said the surveillance of his country’s territory should not concern any “external parties” as he announced measures to boost its defence forces, including the maiden deployment of drones to guard the archipelagic nation in the Indian Ocean.

Mr. Muizzu's latest comments came while speaking at a ceremony to launch the Maldives National Defence Force's (MNDF) Air Corps and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), a press release by the President's Office said. He announced new initiatives to strengthen the Maldives' military capabilities at the ceremony.

The pro-China Maldivian leader's remarks came days after the first batch of Indian military personnel operating a helicopter gifted by India left the country after Mr. Muizzu stepped up his anti-India rhetoric. After assuming office last year, he had asked India to withdraw nearly 90 military personnel from the island nation.

Muizzu’s anti-India stand

Mr. Muizzu said the country is capable of monitoring its jurisdiction. "The Maldives isn't a small nation," he said, noting that the island nation stretches along nine hundred thousand square kilometres and is capable of monitoring its jurisdiction.

"Maldives is an independent and sovereign nation and that surveillance of the Maldives' jurisdiction should not concern any external parties," he said, without naming any country. He said this would not impede the Maldives’ close relations with all countries.

Mr. Muizzu said his government would double the capacity of the Coast Guard, expand the Air Corps fleet, and enhance land-based vehicles and platforms.

India agreed to replace the military personnel with civilians and continue the operations of two helicopters and a Dornier aircraft provided to the country for humanitarian and medical evacuation services.

He has affirmed that no Indian military personnel, not even those in civilian clothing, would be present inside his country after May 10.

Mr. Muizzu's administration has also said it would review more than 100 agreements signed with India by the previous governments. He "affirmed the importance of the Maldives navigating its course towards self-reliance and remaining an independent and sovereign nation in every aspect," the press release said on Friday.

He said that Maldives' independence and sovereignty "must be in the common interest of the entire populace, despite varying ideologies".He added that this would not impede the Maldives’ close relations with all countries.

He rode to power last year on an anti-India stance, and within hours of taking oath, demanded India to remove its personnel from the strategically located island nation in the Indian Ocean.

During the same function, Muizzu also thanked Türkiye President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for his continuous assistance in augmenting the Maldives' military capabilities.

He said Erdogan played a "pivotal role" in realising his goal of using drones for the first time to patrol the huge maritime area of the Maldives.

He said the Maldives received three UAVs and hoped to increase the number through the close bilateral ties between Türkiye and the Maldives. The President added that most of it was received through grant aid from Turkiye.

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