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The Hindu
The Hindu
Meera Srinivasan

Kiren Rijiju arrives in Male to attend Mohamed Muizzu’s swearing-in ceremony

Minister of Earth Sciences Kiren Rijiju arrived in Maldives on November 16 to represent India at the swearing-in ceremony of Maldives President-elect Mohamed Muizzu to be held in Male on November 17, five years after Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended the inaugural event of outgoing leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.

The Minister was received by senior officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Office of the President-elect.

“Honoured to welcome @KirenRijiju, Hon. Minister of Earth Sciences of India, to #Maldives. His presence at the inauguration of President-elect Dr @MMuizzu, representing Hon. PM @narendramodi, Govt & people of India, reflects the long-standing partnership between our 2 nations,” former Minister and senior leader of the President’s party Moosa Zameer said in a post on X.

“This high-level Ministerial representation from India at the inaugural ceremony underscores India’s commitment to further deepen the substantive cooperation and robust people-to-people ties between the two countries,” an official statement from the Ministry of External Affairs said. Earlier this month, Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi told media in New Delhi that PM Modi had received an invitation to attend the ceremony, but a decision on his participation was yet to be taken.  Meanwhile, PM Modi is scheduled to inaugurate the second ‘Voice of Global South Summit’ in virtual format on November 17.

The Maldives’s President-elect Mr. Muizzu won a fiercely contested election in September, garnering 54% of the votes in the poll run-off.  Coming from former President and India-critic Abdulla Yameen’s political camp, Mr. Muizzu has resolved to remove Indian troops from Maldivian soil soon after assuming office.

The Hindu Explains: The stance of the Maldives President-elect on India

As many as 75 Indian military personnel are said to be stationed in the Maldives to maintain and operate the Dornier aircraft and two helicopters gifted to the Maldives by the Government of India. Mr. Muizzu has pledged to remove them through negotiations with India. It was also among his main poll promises. “The people of the Maldives did not vote for me to allow any military presence in the Maldives… that is why we are talking with the Indian government to remove them, and I’m sure we can do that in a peaceful and democratic manner,” he told news agency AFP in an interview this week.

Watch: Muizzu’s win | How will it impact India-Maldives relations?

While Mr. Yameen’s administration — from 2013 to 2018 — was known for its obvious China tilt, President Solih adopted an “India first” foreign policy. His election defeat sparked international commentary over the Indian Ocean archipelago’s potential return to China’s orbit, but Mr. Muizzu has repeatedly said he would pursue a “Maldives first” policy. “I am not asking for the Indian troops to leave our country to make room for any other country to bring their military troops here,” he told AFP.

In Focus Podcast: Will the new President alter Maldives’ ‘India first’ foreign policy?

Earlier this week, Chinese Foreign Ministry announced that President Xi Jinping’s Special Envoy and State Councilor Shen Yiqin will visit the Maldives from November 15 to 18 and attend Mr. Muizzu’s inaugural ceremony.

Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe on Thursday left for the Maldives to attend the event, his office said.

(With PTI inputs)

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