Mohamed Muizzu was sworn in Friday as the Maldives’ fifth democratically elected president and said he will ensure there is no foreign military presence in the archipelago.
Muizzu, who is seen as pro-China, campaigned on a promise to evict Indian military personnel and balance trade, which he said was heavily in favor of India under his predecessor, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.
“Lines of independence and sovereignty will be drawn clearly. The foreign military presence will be removed,” he said.
“I will keep friendships with foreign countries. There won’t be any enmity, with countries close and far away,” Muizzu said.
He said the right of the Maldives to lay down such limits should be respected.
Muizzu was sworn in by Chief Justice Us Ahmed Muthasim Adnan after his surprise victory in September’s presidential election.
The election was seen a virtual referendum on which regional power — China or India — should have the biggest influence on the Indian Ocean archipelago.
The number of Indian troops in the Maldives is not publicly known. Critics say secrecy in the agreement between India and Solih’s government regarding the role and number of Indian military personnel has led to suspicion and rumors. The Indian military is known to operate two Indian-donated helicopters and to assist in the rescue of people who are stranded or facing calamities at sea.
Solih had been expected to easily win the election, with his main rival Abdulla Yameen unable to run after being jailed on a corruption conviction, and Muizzu selected by his party as a fallback candidate.
Muizzu’s running mate, Hussain Mohamed Latheef, was sworn in as vice president.