• Thursday, April 18, 2024

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New president Muizzu vows to keep Maldives ‘free’ from foreign military presence

The 45-year-old leader’s remarks assumed significance has he maintained his election promise of evicting Indian military personnel from the island-nation in the Indian Ocean.

IMAGE VIA @KirenRijiju/ Mohammed Muizzu takes oath as the eighth president of the Maldives, in Male, Friday, November 17, 2023. (PTI Photo)

By: Shubham Ghosh

THE Maldives’s newly sworn-in president Mohamed Muizzu on Friday (17) said he was firmly committed to ensuring that the strategically located archipelago in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) remains “free” of any foreign military presence to preserve its independence and sovereignty.

The 45-year-old structural-engineer-turned-politician’s remarks came soon after he took oath as the eighth president and they assumed significance has he maintained his election promise of evicting Indian military personnel from the Maldives.

The Maldives is one of India’s key maritime neighbours in the IOR and the overall bilateral ties including in areas of defence and security have been on an upward trajectory in the last few years.

Muizzu, a close associate of former Maldives president Abdulla Yameen who forged close ties with China during his presidency from 2013 to 2018, defeated India-friendly incumbent Ibrahim Mohamed Solih in the presidential runoff held in September.

At the swearing-in ceremony, Indian minister Kiren Rijiju represented India.

“An honour and a privilege to represent #India at the inauguration ceremony of President H.E. Dr. Mohamed Muizzu @MMuizzu and Vice-President H.E. Hussain Mohamed Latheef @HucenSembe at iconic Republic Square in Male, Maldives,” Rijiju posted on X.

Special envoy of the Chinese president X Jinping and State councillor Shen Yiqin too was present in Male, the capital of the Maldives.

The event was well attended by a multitude of dignitaries from across the world.

Vouching for preserving its independence and sovereignty, Muizzu made a firm commitment to ensure that the Maldives remains “free of any foreign military presence.”

Highlighting Maldives’ “independence,” Muizzu said he would make Maldives a country that is free from all outside cultural influence. “The Maldivian people come first on the list! The very top!”

Muizzu elaborated on his vision for the Maldives’ foreign policy, emphasising the preservation of amicable relations with neighbouring and distant countries.

A master plan for national development for the next 20 years, ensuring the judicial system is free from even the slightest influence of the government, a development plan to establish two integrated development zones, and prioritising the tourism industry, one of the strongest pillars of the nation’s economy, were among the focus points of his speech. Muizzu noted that the state’s total debt when he assumed office was MVR 119 billion, the biggest in the Maldives’ financial history and said that Maldives remains strong enough “to overcome the economic fallout”.

He also mentioned completing the long-pending Velana International Airport project.

“President Dr Muizzu highlighted that the Maldives would reciprocate the respect for independence and sovereignty that it expects from other nations,” a statement from the President’s office said. The president underscored that the foundation of a free society or nation is built upon the principles and norms that “we uphold and believe in” and praised the crucial role of Maldivian society in fostering goodness and rectifying wrongs, thereby highlighting the community’s collective responsibility. “We want to ensure the independence of the powers of the Maldivian state.

And especially to ensure the judicial system is free from even the slightest influence of the government,” the newspaper Sun said, quoting him.

“This does not mean the government will turn a blind eye to individuals who betray Maldivian citizens and the state and commit crimes. On the contrary, it means the government influencing the judiciary is brought to an immediate end from here on,” he added.

(With PTI inputs)

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