Former Maldivian Foreign Affairs Minister Abdulla Shahid has alleged that the claims made by his island nation’s President Mohamed Muizzu regarding the presence of “thousands of Indian military personnel” in the country are lies.

“President Muizzu's claims…were just another in a string of lies,” Shahid said in a post on X on Sunday. “The current administration’s inability to provide specific numbers speaks volumes. There are no armed foreign soldiers stationed in the country.”

Shahid is the president of the Maldivian Democratic Party, which was defeated in Maldives’ 2023 presidential election by the Progressive Party of Maldives-People’s National Congress coalition led by President Mohamed Muizzu.

Shahid’s comments come amid claims by the Muizzu government that the Maldivian Democratic Party compromised Maldives’ sovereignty by allowing Indian soldiers to be stationed there. The removal of Indian troops was a key election promise of Muizzu’s.

Muizzu is widely seen as sympathetic to China’s interests in his country, in contrast to his predecessor Ibrahim Mohamed Solih who had sought closer ties with India even as government critics accused him of “compromising the sovereignty” of the Maldives.

On February 2, the Maldives government said that India has agreed to withdraw its military personnel from the island nation by May 10 and replace the aviation management staff with civilians. The decision was announced after the second meeting of the India-Maldives High-Level Core Group in New Delhi on Friday.

However, the statement issued by India’s External Affairs Ministry had no mention of this agreement. It said that both sides “agreed on a set of mutually workable solutions to enable continued operation of Indian aviation platforms that provide humanitarian and medvac [Medical Evacuation] services to the people of Maldives”.

India is the only foreign power with a military presence in the Maldives. Around 70 Indian defence personnel maintain radar stations and surveillance aircraft in the archipelago. Indian warships also help patrol the Maldives’ exclusive economic zone. This collaboration is of strategic importance to New Delhi amid its geopolitical competition with China in the Indian Ocean region.

Also read: Muizzu government’s ‘anti-India’ stance could be detrimental, says Maldivian Opposition