Curated By: Saurabh Verma
Last Updated: February 08, 2024, 19:53 IST
Jaiswal said India remained a committed development partner of the Maldives.(Image: ANI file)
Following the second meeting of the high-level core group to address the issue of the military personnel, the Maldivian foreign ministry said India will replace its military personnel in two phases by May 10
India will replace its military personnel operating three aviation platforms in the Maldives with “competent Indian technical personnel” amid strained ties between the two countries following the victory of Mohamed Muizzu who is widely seen as a pro-China leader.
“I would like to say that the present personnel will be replaced by competent Indian technical personnel,” External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal said at his weekly media briefing.
Jaiswal said India remained a committed development partner of the Maldives. “We remain an important committed development partner for the Maldives,” he said.
Following the second meeting of the high-level core group to address the issue of the military personnel, the Maldivian foreign ministry said India will replace its military personnel in two phases by May 10.
Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu on Monday said the first group of Indian military personnel will be sent back before March 10 and the remaining manning ones will be withdrawn before May 10.
The second meeting of the core group took place in Delhi on February 2. The two sides decided to set up the core group following a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Muizzu on the sidelines of the COP28 summit in Dubai in December.
At present, around 80 Indian military personnel are in the Maldives primarily to operate two helicopters and an aircraft which carried out hundreds of medical evacuations and humanitarian missions. The ties between the two countries came under some strain since he came to power in November.
Muizzu, widely seen as a pro-China leader, maintained after assuming charge as the president that he will keep his election promise of evicting Indian military personnel from his country. Muizzu, 45, defeated India-friendly incumbent Ibrahim Mohamed Solih in the presidential runoff held in September last year.
On budgetary allocation under India’s development assistance to the Maldives, Jaiswal said a certain amount was allocated and it could be revised. The budgetary allocation to the Maldives for 2023-24 was Rs 400 crore but the revised estimate showed that the outlay went up to Rs 770.90 crore which is almost double of the initial amount.
In the interim budget for 2024-25, an amount of Rs 600 crore has been set aside as development assistance to the country. Jaiswal said the new figure could be revised once there is clarity on forward movement.
The Maldives is one of India’s key maritime neighbours in the Indian Ocean Region and the overall bilateral ties including in areas of defence and security witnessed an upward trajectory under the previous government in Male. In August 2022, Modi and Solih kick-started the India-funded Greater Male connectivity project, billed as the largest infrastructure initiative in the island nation.
Under the Greater Male Connectivity Project (GMCP) project, a 6.74 km long bridge and causeway link will be built to connect the capital city Male with adjoining islands of Villingli, Gulhifalhu and Thilafushi.
(With PTI inputs)