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India completes withdrawal of troops from Maldives ahead of today's deadline

Maldives' pro-China President Mohamed Muizzu set the deadline of May 10 for the complete withdrawal of Indian military personnel from the country. Muizzu has previously accused India of meddling in the internal affairs of the Maldives, despite it being a crucial maritime neighbour.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Male Published on: May 10, 2024 16:32 IST
India, Maldives
Image Source : MOOSA ZAMEER (X) The development came as Maldivian Foreign Minister Moosa Zameer held talks with his Indian counterpart S Jaishankar in New Delhi on Thursday.

Male: India has completed the withdrawal of its military personnel from the Maldives ahead of the May 10 (Friday) deadline on the demands of pro-China Mohamed Muizzu, said the Ministry of External Affairs and the Maldives' presidential spokesperson on Thursday. Muizzu, set May 10 as the deadline for the withdrawal of the Indian military personnel from his country.

Addressing a regular press briefing, MEA spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal said, "So, both Maldives and India have engaged quite some time to see how best they can continue the operation of aviation platforms. And in that regard, you have seen developments in first and second batches of people who were providing their support there, they had come back."

"Now, what I can confirm to you is that the deputation of the competent Indian technical personnel has taken place. These platforms provide medivac services to the people of Maldives," he added, referring to the deployment of civilian personnel in the country. Some 88 Indian military personnel were stationed in the Maldives to operate and maintain two helicopters and Dornier aircraft India gifted earlier.

The last batch of Indian soldiers stationed in the Maldives have been repatriated, confirmed Heena Waleed, President's Office Chief Spokesperson told a local media outlet, without confirming the number of Indian soldiers. She added details about the number of the soldiers stationed would be disclosed later.

Mohamed Muizzu's demand for Indian troop withdrawal

Muizzu, seen as a pro-China leader, has repeatedly affirmed that no Indian military personnel, not even those in civilian clothing, would be present inside his country after May 10. Following a high-level meeting in New Delhi on February 2 between the two sides, India agreed to replace its military personnel operating the three aviation platforms in the Maldives by May 10. 

Muizzu has previously accused India of meddling in the affairs of the Maldives, despite it being India's key maritime neighbour in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). Since assuming office as the President in November, he has travelled to Beijing in January and met China's top leadership to cement the Male-Beijing relationship. His government has also signed a defence agreement with the Chinese military under which the People's Liberation Army will assist the Maldivian security and defence forces.

However, in his first media interview, Muizzu claimed that he had not taken any action or made any statements that may strain the relationship between the two countries. India will continue to remain the Maldives' closest ally, he said and emphasised that there was no question about it, Maldives news portal Edition.mv said in a report last month.

India-Maldives defence relations go beyond troops: Zameer

The development came as Maldivian Foreign Minister Moosa Zameer visited India and held delegation-level talks with his Indian counterpart S Jaishankar on Thursday, wherein they had "extensive discussions" on bilateral ties and regional security issues. Zameer said the platforms handled by Indian troops will now be controlled by civilian personnel.

"I think Maldives-India defence relations go beyond military personnel. And now, those platforms which have been handled by the military personnel will be handled by civilians. We have had a joint exercise with the Maldivian military, Indian military and Sri Lanka, I think Bangladesh is an observer and we will continue to have these exercises," he said in an interview with news agency ANI.

(with inputs from agencies)

ALSO READ | 'Will ensure it's not repeated': Maldives' foreign minister on derogatory remarks towards PM Modi

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