New Delhi: After Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu’s repeated calls for the withdrawal of Indian military personnel from the country, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Thursday said the Indian troops willl be replaced by “competent technical personnel”. This came after a high-level meeting between India and Maldives on February 2.
Both countries on Friday agreed on a “set of mutually workable solutions” to enable the continued operation of Indian aviation platforms in the island country. According to the Maldives foreign ministry, India has agreed to “replace” military personnel in three aviation platforms by May 10, after Muizzu called for the withdrawal of Indian military by March.
Addressing a weekly press briefing, MEA spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal on Thursday said, “What we had to say, we made it out in the press release. This was done after the second high-level core group meeting. We also said that the third core group meeting will be subsequently held. I would like to say, the present personnel will be replaced by competent Indian technical personnel.”
Notably, the Ministry of External Affairs stated in its statement that both India and Maldives have agreed on a set of mutually workable solutions to enable the continued operation of Indian aviation platforms that provide humanitarian and medvac services to the people of Maldives. “Both sides also agreed on a set of mutually workable solutions to enable continued operation of Indian aviation platforms that provide humanitarian and medvac services to the people of Maldives,” it stated.
Muizzu on withdrawal of Indian troops
Earlier on Monday, Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu addressed the parliament, in a session completely boycotted by the opposition. Muizzu “underscored the necessity for the Maldives to fortify its military capabilities across terrestrial, aerial, and maritime domains as part of a comprehensive defence strategy.”
He also stated that diplomatic negotiations were underway for the withdrawal of Indian troops. He detailed that, as agreed in the last negotiations, the military personnel on one of the three aviation platforms would be withdrawn before March 10, 2024, and the military personnel on the remaining two platforms would be withdrawn before May 10, 2024.
Notably, the removal of Indian troops in the Maldives was the main campaign of Muizzu’s party. Currently, there are around 80 Indian troops, along with Dornier 228 maritime patrol aircraft and two HAL Dhruv helicopters, stationed in the Maldives. The Indian platforms have been providing humanitarian and medical evacuation services to the people of the Maldives for the last few years.
Reports suggest that the Indian military personnel would be replaced by civilians who have expertise in operating the three platforms. This effectively means India has agreed with Muizzu’s demand to withdraw from the island country, but will continue to operate the two helicopters and the Dornier aircraft in the Maldives with the help of civilian replacements.
After enjoying long-standing friendly ties, relations soured between India and the Maldives when Muizzu won the November elections riding on an ‘India Out’ campaign. Muizzu asked India to withdraw its nearly 80 military personnel stationed there and declined a hydrographic project with New Delhi. Muizzu vowed to stop the emergency helicopter services facilitated by India and fixed March 2024 as the deadline.
MEA on deaths of Indian students in the US
On a separate note, the MEA also spoke on the deaths of five Indian-origin students in the US, ruling out any “foul play or interconnectedness” in the incidents. “There are five Indian students who have died that also includes students from the diaspora. These five deaths… Of these five deaths, two people are Indian nationals and the rest three are of Indian origin. They are US nationals,” Jaiswal said.
While addressing concerns about the recent attack on a Hyderabad resident, Mazir Ali, in Chicago, Jaiswal stated that the Indian consulate in Chicago is in close contact with him and his family. “We are trying to see how best to help him with medical aid. Also to ensure his wellbeing. I understand that the local police have registered a case and the consulate is there to provide all possible support,” the spokesperson added.
(with inputs from ANI)
ALSO READ | Maldives remains at ‘high risk’ of external, overall debt distress: IMF