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Amid Row, Prez Muizzu Asks India To Withdraw Military Personnel from Maldives

Prez Muizzu made the comments after returning from his five-day visit to China, even as tensions with India simmer.

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Maldives President Mohammed Muizzu on Sunday, 14 January formally asked India to withdraw its military personnel from the island nation by 15 March, The Hindu has reported.

The move a comes a day after Muizzu returned from his five-day visit to China. On Saturday, he told reporters that Maldives might be a small country “but this doesn’t give them the license to bully us.”

The SunOnline newspaper quoted Abdulla Nazim Ibrahim, the public policy secretary at the President’s Office, as saying that Maldives has formally asked India to withdraw its military personnel by 15 March.

This comes amid rising diplomatic tensions between India and Maldives over social media posts by the latter country’s ministers against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 

In an apparent jibe at India, earlier today Muizzu said, "We aren't in anyone's backyard...This ocean does not belong to a specific country. This (Indian) Ocean also belongs to all countries situated in it," a Maldives-based online news portal reported.

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Besides holding bilateral talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Muizzu’s China visit was marked by signing 20 agreements, an aid of $130 million to Maldives, and a joint statement which read:

"China firmly supports the Maldives in upholding its national sovereignty, independence and national dignity, respects and supports the Maldives' exploration of a development path that suits its national conditions, and firmly opposes external interference in the internal affairs of the Maldives." 

'China Promises Aid For Redeveloping Male'

President Muizzu said that most of the $130 million aid will be spent on redevelopment projects in Male, the capital city. Before he became the President of Maldives in November last year, Muizzu was the Mayor of Male.

Meanwhile, his party suffered a setback in the Mayoral elections held in Male today, with opposition party Maldives Democratic Party (MDP)'s candidate Adam Azim taking the seat. 

During Muizzu’s first state visit to China, which was marred by diplomatic tensions with India back home, the two countries also signed a $50 million agreement to develop an integrated tourism zone in Hulhumale. China also agreed to allow Maldives' national airline, Maldivian, to conduct domestic flight operations in the country.

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