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Maldives: Muizzu says Indian military personnel from second aviation platform to depart by this month

The first batch of around 25 Indian personnel manning a helicopter departed from the island nation ahead of the March 10 deadline. India agreed to replace its military personnel operating the three aviation platforms in the Maldives by May 10 after a high-level meeting in February.

Aveek Banerjee Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Male Published on: April 03, 2024 20:26 IST
Maldives, Mohamed Muizzu, Indian military personnel
Image Source : AP Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu

Male: Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu on Wednesday said that the Indian military personnel at the second aviation platform would be withdrawn "within the current month" while the entire process would be completed by May 10, as per media reports. This came after the first batch of approximately 25 Indian troops manning a helicopter gifted by India departed from the island nation ahead of the March 10 deadline.

According to state-owned media, Muizzu made the fresh statement during a public meeting, where he reiterated his commitment to preserving Maldives' independence. Muizzu's demand for the withdrawal of Indian military personnel in the Maldives has strained relations with New Delhi, as the President is rapidly pivoting towards China.

The President elaborated that, in line with agreements reached between parties, the withdrawal process of Indian military personnel is already underway. He said that the troops stationed on the second platform will be withdrawn within April, while those on the third platform will be withdrawn by May 10. A total of 88 Indian military personnel were operating two helicopters and a Dornier aircraft which were providing humanitarian and medical evacuation services in this archipelagic nation.

Muizzu's closer ties with China

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. 

Since assuming office as the President in November, Muizzu 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.

Last week, the Maldives Industrial Development Free Zone under the State Trading Organisation and China Harbour Engineering Company Limited signed a Memorandum of Understanding to establish an Agriculture Economic Zone in the Maldives by reclaiming land from Uthuru Thila Falhu for sustainable agriculture purposes.

Maldives capable of monitoring jurisdiction: Muizzu

Earlier in March, Muizzu took a dig at India by saying that the surveillance of the Maldives' territory should not concern any "external parties" as he announced measures to boost its defence forces, including the maiden deployment of drones to guard the nation in the Indian Ocean.

Asserting that Maldives isn't a small nation, Muizzu said the country is capable of monitoring its jurisdiction. "The Maldives isn't a small nation," he said, noting that the island nation stretches along nine hundred thousand square kilometres and is capable of monitoring its jurisdiction. "Maldives is an independent and sovereign nation and that surveillance of the Maldives' jurisdiction should not concern any external parties," he said, without naming any country.

However, in his first media interview, Muizzu claimed that he has 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 on Thursday.

(with PTI inputs)

ALSO READ | 'Muizzu must stop being stubborn, seek dialogue with neighbours to overcome...': Maldives' ex-President

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