India’s government has not told its defence personnel to pull out from Maldives following a request from Male, Indian Navy Chief Admiral R. Hari Kumar told broadcaster CNN-News 18 on Thursday.

India’s ties with Maldives have come under strain after Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu’s election win last year pledging to end his country’s “India First” policy and later calling for withdrawal of Indian troops by March 15.

Muizzu’s decisions are seen as a pivot away from India to build stronger ties with China in a region where New Delhi and Beijing compete for influence.

“We await instructions, whatever is the decision,” Kumar said when asked about the return of defence personnel from Maldives, adding that New Delhi has “not really” issued any communication to the navy so far.

A contingent of around 80 Indian soldiers are stationed on the Indian Ocean archipelago nation to provide support for military equipment given to Male by New Delhi and assist in humanitarian activities.