The term "India Out" has resonated through the streets of Male' City since 2020, becoming a familiar presence on banners, in rally chants, and as spray-painted graffiti on walls. This call for 'India Out' in the Maldives has been loud and clear for almost three years, gaining momentum during the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, the true meaning behind the India Out campaign, initially led by the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), is not rooted in a blanket opposition to India by the Maldivian people. Rather, it originated from a genuine concern that Maldivians might lose control of their nation. As a small island nation that has maintained its independence since July 26, 1965, the Maldives had not experienced a foreign presence threatening its sovereignty in a long time. The fear stemmed from the visible Indian military presence during the previous administration, raising concerns that the Maldives could be at risk of losing its autonomy to the Indian military.
The campaign, however, took an unfortunate turn, leading to hate directed at Indian nationals living and working in the Maldives. This backlash prompted the government to eventually ban the India Out movement due to the misguided interpretation that it called for the expulsion of all Indian nationals from the Maldives.
Despite the concerns being largely ignored by the previous administration, President Mohamed Muizz, leader of the PPM/PNC, made the withdrawal of Indian military personnel a key promise during his presidential campaign. True to his commitment, within 24 hours of assuming office, President Muizz formally requested the Indian government to bring back its military personnel during a meeting with the Indian Minister for Earth Science. Notably, this was not the first time the President had raised the issue; as President-elect, Muizz had discussed the matter with the Indian Ambassador, receiving a positive response to work together on the withdrawal.
The removal of foreign military troops became a focal point in the first 100 days of President Muizz's administration, emphasizing the importance of drawing a red line for national safety during his inaugural speech.