Hot on the heels of the Maldives’s demand that Indian troops be removed from the island nation, the Cabinet has decided against renewing a 2019 MoU with India for hydrographic surveying, a top official in Malé told The Hindu

According to Mohamed Shahyb, Chief Spokesperson at President Mohamed Muizzu’s office, the Cabinet recently decided that the MoU, which is due to expire in 2023, will not be renewed. “It’s a decision by the Cabinet,” Shahyb told The Hindu on Friday.

Hydrographic surveys

Following the 2019 agreement, the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) and the Indian Navy have carried out three joint hydrographic surveys in February and March 2021, April and May 2022 and in January and February 2023, according to a statement issued by the High Commission of India in Maldives earlier this year, following the latest survey. The surveys “will generate updated navigational charts/electronic navigational charts” that would “enhance the navigational safety of ships and enhance the Blue Economy of Maldives,” the statement said.  

Some government critics — mainly those part of the ‘India Out’ campaign led by former President Abdulla Yameen — have been opposed to the initiative. They contend it is an infringement on Maldivian sovereignty. Neither the Ministry of External Affairs, New Delhi, nor the Indian High Commission in Malé has commented on the recent Cabinet decision. 

Meanwhile, asked if there was any update on President Muizzu’s announcement that India had “agreed” to his demand that Indian troops be withdrawn from the Indian Ocean Island nation, spokesperson Shahyb said: “It is progressing”. The newly elected Maldivian President made the announcement two days after meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the Summit. While the MEA did not comment on his statement, sources told The Hindu that the leaders “briefly discussed” the issue. 

Meera Srinivasan is The Hindu Correspondent in Colombo