Maldives' Muizzu wants Indian personnel withdrawal before Majlis elections | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Maldives' Muizzu wants Indian personnel withdrawal before Majlis elections

By, New Delhi
Jan 17, 2024 07:14 AM IST

New Delhi is yet to officially respond to the demand by the Mohammed Muizzu government that the personnel be withdrawn by March 15

India plans to take up with the Maldives during talks of the high level core group next month, the modalities and timing of withdrawal of Indian defence personnel flying two ALH helicopters, one Dornier and sailing an offshore patrol vessel (OPV) in the island, people familiar with the matter said.

Maldives President wants India to withdraw its military personnel crew flying the two helicopters and one Dornier by March 15.
Maldives President wants India to withdraw its military personnel crew flying the two helicopters and one Dornier by March 15.

New Delhi is yet to officially respond to the demand by the Mohammed Muizzu government that the personnel be withdrawn by March 15, two days before the crucial Majlis election on March 17.

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At the first meeting of the core group on January 14 and 15, Maldivian representative Ali Naseer asked Indian High Commissioner to Maldives Munu Mahawar to replace the defence personnel with civilian crew by March 15. New Delhi’s response will come in the February round and be based on the availability of civilian crew for the surveillance assets.

The two ALH under Maldivian colours, one Dornier aircraft and one OPV have all been grounded as President Muizzu continues with his anti-India campaign ahead of the Majlis elections. The Maldivian position has become more strident after Muizzu’s party lost the Male mayoral election to the Maldivian Democratic Party, which wants to maintain ties with India, on January 14.

According to people familiar with the matter, Muizzu could seek support from Beijing to replace Indian assets with Chinese ones with the Xi Jinping regime arranging crews from private companies in Singapore. However, this move could cost Muizzu upwards of $ 10 million, something that the cash-strapped Maldivian economy can ill-afford, they added. Maldives’ debt to China and India amount to 30% and 10% of its GDP. It has to pay $100 million this year to India according to its debt repayment schedule.

Interestingly, the only substantive issue regarding India that Male raised during the talks was the withdrawal of the defence personnel. There was no discussion on the India-funded and managed Greater Male Connectivity Project, the largest infra project taken up in the Island nation. The project is funded under a grant of $100 million and a line of credit of $ 400 million from India. The project envisages a 6.74 kilometre long bridge and causeway link that will connect Male with adjoining islands of Villingli, Gulhifalhu and Thilafushi.

To be sure, Muizzu’s comments during, and after his January 8-12 visit to Beijing suggest that he may be looking at China as a possible source of funds and other resources -- although experts point out that Sri Lanka’s experience in this regard is telling.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Author of Indian Mujahideen: The Enemy Within (2011, Hachette) and Himalayan Face-off: Chinese Assertion and Indian Riposte (2014, Hachette). Awarded K Subrahmanyam Prize for Strategic Studies in 2015 by Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA) and the 2011 Ben Gurion Prize by Israel.

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