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NEW DELHI: India’s government has agreed to withdraw its soldiers from the Maldives, the Indian Ocean archipelago’s President Mohamed Muizzu said on Sunday.

Muizzu won the presidential election in September, having campaigned to alter the Maldives’s “India first” policy and promising removal of a small Indian military presence of some 75 personnel. “In the discussions we had, the Indian government has agreed to remove Indian soldiers,” Muizzu told reporters. “We also agreed to set up a high level committee to solve issues related to development projects.”

Muizzu made the remarks following engagements on the sidelines of the COP28 climate summit with Indian officials. India’s ministry of foreign affairs did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Sunday.

India and China have been vying for influence in the region, with the coalition that supports Muizzu considered to have a leaning more towards China.

Most of the Indian military personnel were in the Maldives to operate and manage two helicopters and a Dornier aircraft given to the Maldives by India.

India provides certain military equipment to the Maldives, assists in disaster response and has been helping build a naval dockyard there. At his inauguration last month, Muizzu said he would ensure that his country has no foreign military presence.

He had made the request of Indian troop withdrawal to Kiren Rijiju, India’s minister for earth sciences, who represented India at the president’s inauguration.

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