India, Maldives foreign ministers meet amid strained ties

Maldivian Foreign Minister Moosa Zameer and his Indian counterpart, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, met to discuss mutual interests between the two countries in New Delhi on Thursday.

This is the first such high-level visit since the Maldives' pro-China president, Mohamed Muizzu, came to power last November on an election pledge of "India out."

The talks came a day ahead of the May 10 deadline set by Muizzu for India to withdraw its troops from the island nation.

Since taking office, Muizzu has been reviewing the pro-India policy of the previous administration, and is stepping up his pro-China stance. He maintains that excessive military cooperation with India could erode the Maldives' sovereignty.

India's foreign ministry spokesperson said on Thursday that it had replaced some 80 soldiers on the Maldives with civilian technical personnel. Indian troops were there to provide humanitarian and medical evacuation services to local residents with helicopters donated by New Delhi.

The island nation in the Indian Ocean lies in the middle of a strategically important sea-lane and plays a vital role in regional dynamics. Both India and China have been vying to expand their influence over the Maldives.