The new government, led by President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu, has announced the presence of 77 Indian soldiers in the Maldives to operate the helicopters and Dornier aircraft.
The new administration also said that the previous government had entered into over 100 agreements related to foreign relations with the Indian government; outside of development initiatives.
At the first media briefing since the presidential inauguration of Dr. Muizzu, the Under-Secretary for Public Policy of President's Office Mohamed Firzul Abdulla Khaleel said that the information gathered by the current administration revealed the presence of 77 Indian soldiers in the Maldives.
When MNDF seniors were summoned to the National Security Committee in 21 to question about foreign military presence, they confirmed 75 Indian soldiers were stationed in the Maldives to operate the helicopter and the Dornier aircraft.
On Saturday, November 18, President Dr. Muizzu made an official appeal to the Indian government to deport its soldiers back home. President Muizzu met with Indian Minister of Earth Sciences Kiren Rijiju, who was the special envoy of the Indian government attending the presidential inauguration ceremony, and made the formal request to withdraw its troops.
At Sunday's press briefing, Firzul had provided details of the Indian soldiers' responsibilities:
- 24 military personnel stationed to operate and manage the helicopter gifted by the Indian government
- 25 officers to operate the Dornier aircraft
- 26 officers to operate the additional helicopter gifted by the Indian government
- Two soldiers stationed for repairs and maintenance work of the aircraft and helicopters
Firzul further noted that the current administration will begin efforts to alter and amend the provisions in the agreements with India made detrimentally towards the Maldives. He said the government is now working to collect information and documents pertaining to the agreements.
"Based on the information we have gathered and verified so far, we can attest that the previous administration had entered into over 100 bilateral agreements with India. I would like to point out that this number is excluding the agreements towards urban development," Firzul said.
Additionally, Firzul provided details of the works carried out by the helicopters and Dornier aircraft in the past five years, which include;
- 661 medical evacuations
- 220 surveillance operations
- 100 search missions
- Defense training, Covid sample collection and transportation, VIP services, and air crew transfer
"These operations brought notable benefits to locals as well, however, Maldivian citizens do not want permanent residency of foreign soldiers in the country for any given purpose, which is the basis on which the President will execute his policies," Firzul added.
He further highlighted the requirement for additional time to research the documents related to all the agreements the previous government entered with India. Firzul said President Muizzu has already begun efforts to make necessary amendments to said agreement to ensure preservation of Maldivian sovereignty.
Despite several appeals to reveal the details of Indian soldiers present in the Maldives, the Information Commissioner decided against it citing it would pose a danger to the country's national security. However, High Court on November 9 overturned the commissioner's decision.
The first appellate court in its verdict stated that the commissioner failed to provide sufficient reasoning for their decision to conceal the information, and held that though the commissioner said the decision was on the basis of the confidential agreement between the countries, the authority failed to verify the presence of the agreement or its provisions.
The three judges' bench of the High Court unanimously agreed that the Information Commissioner's Office was required to amend its decision about disclosing the information, citing the office acted outside of legal procedures.