India and the Maldives have reached a consensus on a series of practical solutions to sustain the operation of Indian aviation platforms within the island nation. This development follows Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu's recent request for the withdrawal of Indian military personnel from the country by March 15.
After a high-level meeting in Delhi between the two nations, the Maldivian foreign ministry disclosed that India is set to replace its military personnel managing the three aviation platforms in the Maldives by May 10, with the initial phase concluding by March 10.
In a joint statement, both parties confirmed that the government of India will initiate the replacement of military personnel in one platform by March 10, and the transition for the other two platforms will be completed by May 10. These changes are aimed at ensuring the continued operation of Indian aviation platforms, which offer crucial humanitarian and medical evacuation services to the Maldivian people.
President Muizzu, often viewed as having pro-China leanings, had urged India to withdraw its military personnel by March 15. The mutually agreed-upon solutions indicate a commitment to maintaining essential services while addressing the concerns raised by the Maldivian leadership.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) further emphasized that discussions during the core-group meeting covered a spectrum of bilateral cooperation issues. This included efforts to expedite ongoing development cooperation projects, showcasing a commitment to enhancing the partnership between the two nations.
The MEA announced that the next meeting of the high-level core group is scheduled to take place in Male on a date convenient for both parties, fostering a continuous dialogue to address evolving challenges and opportunities in the bilateral relationship.
Currently, approximately 80 Indian military personnel operate two helicopters and an aircraft in the Maldives, undertaking numerous medical evacuations and humanitarian missions. The decision to establish the core group was initiated after discussions between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Muizzu at the COP28 summit in Dubai in December the previous year.
There are indications that civilians with expertise in operating the aviation platforms may replace Indian military personnel, suggesting a pragmatic approach to addressing the concerns raised by the Maldivian leadership.
The diplomatic relations between India and the Maldives experienced strains since President Muizzu assumed office in November the previous year. Despite the evolving dynamics, both nations have recognized the strategic importance of their ties, especially in defense and security matters.
As the situation develops, the ongoing dialogue and cooperative efforts between India and the Maldives demonstrate a commitment to finding amicable solutions and maintaining the positive trajectory of their bilateral relations.
(With Agency Inputs)