Maldives key partner in ensuring free, open, secure, and prosperous Indo-Pacific region: US

Feb 9, 2024

Washington: Describing Maldives as a key partner in ensuring a free, open, secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific regionThe United States of america has said it is committed to strengthening Collaboration with Indian Ocean Archipelago nation. Months after President Mohammed Muizzu, considered a pro-China leader, took office, US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Donald Trump was in the Maldives recently to interact with its new leadership and civil society.
Asked about the assistant secretary's visit from January, a State Department spokesperson told PTI on Thursday, “The United States is committed to strengthening cooperation with the Maldives, which is a free, open, secure, and prosperous India- is a key partner in ensuring the Pacific region.” 29-31.
The spokesperson's comments come at a time when there is an ongoing diplomatic row between Maldives and India after President Muizzu demanded the withdrawal of all 88 Indian military personnel from the country. Global concerns are increasing over China's growing military power in the Indo-Pacific region.
While in Male, Lu met Mohammad Muizzu and other senior officials to discuss shared priorities including defense cooperation, economic development and democratic governance.
“They also discussed progress on the establishment of the US Embassy in the Maldives which will further strengthen our partnership and people-to-people ties,” the spokesperson said.
Loo also met civil society members and higher education officials to discuss democratic governance and transparency in the Maldives, the spokesperson said.
Soon after taking oath as President of Maldives on 17 November, Muizzu formally requested India to withdraw 88 military personnel from his country by 15 March, saying that the people of Maldives had conveyed this to him from New Delhi. Gave a “strong mandate” to make the request.
Following talks between the two countries, India on Thursday said it will replace its military personnel operating three aviation platforms in the Maldives with “competent” Indian technical personnel.
“I would like to say that the existing personnel will be replaced by capable Indian technical personnel,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal said at his weekly media briefing in New Delhi.
Muizzu on Monday said the first group of Indian military personnel would be sent back before March 10 and the remaining personnel would be withdrawn before May 10.
Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said after completing its Article IV mission in the Maldives that the South Asian nation's post-pandemic growth has been strong but has recently normalized.
The growth rate is projected to be 5.2 percent in 2024, as tourist inflows are expected to increase further. Nevertheless, fiscal and external vulnerabilities have increased, necessitating urgent policy adjustments.
An IMF mission led by economist Piyaporn Sodsriwiboon visited Male from 23 January to 6 February to discuss recent economic developments, outlook, and the country's policy priorities in the context of the 2024 Article IV consultations.
“After the pandemic-induced contraction, the Maldives economy is projected to grow 13.9 percent in 2022 and 4.4 percent in 2023. Tourist arrivals are expected to increase further, with growth projected to be 5.2 percent in 2024. Velana Airport 'Terminal expansion and the associated increase in hotel accommodation capacities are projected to boost growth prospects. Nevertheless, uncertainty over the outlook remains high and risks are tilted to the downside, necessitating urgent policy adjustments,' ' Sodasriviboon said.

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