President Mohammed Muizzu has announced that the second group of Indian military personnel operating helicopters has left the Maldives on April 9 under a bilateral agreement with India.

Muizzu made the announcement on Friday while speaking during a campaign event for ruling party candidates ahead of parliamentary elections later this month.

“The first team has already left. Now, the soldiers who were on the second platform on April 9 have also been withdrawn,” local media quoted Muizzu as saying.

The agreement between Maldives and India is to replace Indian military personnel deployed in Maldives with trained civilians from India to oversee the operation of military aircraft gifted by the country.

Pro-China leader Muizzu said the Indian troops present at the last stage will also leave the Maldives before May 10, marking the fulfillment of his pledge to remove Indian troops from the island nation.

“Only one platform is left. Since both countries have already signed [the remaining Indian military personnel] Will be recalled even before May 10. They will leave,” news portal quoted Muizzu as saying.

“So that pledge has been fulfilled, right? All foreign forces here will leave before May 10. So whatever pledge I made, I will work to fulfill it as much as possible.” He did not give any details and also did not clarify whether the soldiers had been replaced by Indian citizens.

Neither the Maldives Defense Ministry nor India has commented on the latest withdrawal of Indian military personnel from the country.

According to the Maldivian government, 88 Indian soldiers were deployed in the Maldives to operate helicopters in Addu and Laamu Kadhadhoo and a Dornier aircraft in Hanimadhoo. Doctors from Senahiya Military Hospital are also included in this figure.

The first group of Indian troops left the Maldives on 11 March. The Defense Ministry said that 26 soldiers stationed in Addu were replaced by 26 Indian citizens. India also deployed a new helicopter in place of the old one at Addu.

Relations between the Maldives and India have deteriorated since Muizzu came to power in November last year while maintaining close ties with China. He also traveled to China in January and met with top Chinese leaders, including President Xi Jinping.

China and Maldives recently signed a defense cooperation agreement and several other infrastructure development projects.

Maldives is India’s key maritime neighbor in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and holds a special place in the Narendra Modi government’s initiatives like SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region) and Neighbors First Policy.

(Only the headline and image in this report may have been reworked by Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

first published: 13 April 2024 | 11:03 pm First

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