Indian military crew in Maldives to be replaced by competent technical personnel | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Indian military crew in Maldives to be replaced by competent technical personnel

Feb 09, 2024 09:01 AM IST

Military personnel in the Maldives to operate, maintain two helicopters and an aircraft used for medical evacuations and humanitarian missions will be replaced

NEW DELHI: India on Thursday said military personnel deployed in the Maldives to operate and maintain two helicopters and an aircraft used for medical evacuations and humanitarian missions will be replaced by “competent Indian technical personnel”.

External affairs ministry spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal said the present personnel in the Maldives will be replaced by competent Indian technical personnel (X/ANI)
External affairs ministry spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal said the present personnel in the Maldives will be replaced by competent Indian technical personnel (X/ANI)

The two countries are currently engaged in discussions on the withdrawal of more than 75 Indian military personnel from the Indian Ocean archipelago following Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu’s demand that they be removed by March 15.

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Following the second meeting of a high-level core group created by the two sides to sort out the issue, India had said on February 2 that both countries had agreed on “mutually workable solutions” for operating the three aircraft. The Maldivian foreign ministry said India would replace military personnel for one aircraft by March 10 and complete replacing all the personnel by May 10.

“I would like to say that the present personnel will be replaced by competent Indian technical personnel,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal told a regular media briefing without giving details.

A third meeting of the high-level core group will be held “subsequently”, Jaiswal said.

People familiar with the matter said the Indian side is considering several options to replace the military personnel currently in the Maldives to operate two ALH helicopters and a Dornier aircraft that were provided by New Delhi. One option is replacing the military personnel with civilian operators familiar with the two platforms, including retired personnel from the three services with experience of flying and maintaining the aircraft, the people said.

Also Read: ‘No Compromise On Sovereignty’: Maldives’ Muizzu’s Message To India Amid Row Over Troop Presence

Muizzu, who is widely perceived as being close to China, has sought to move the Maldives away from dependence on India in crucial sectors such as food security and defence following his victory in last year’s presidential election. Besides finalising arrangements with Sri Lanka for medical evacuation services, Muizzu’s government has signed agreements with Turkiye to procure wheat and drones to be used for maritime surveillance.

However, Jaiswal said India is committed to its development partnership with the Maldives. He noted that the budgetary allocation for the Maldives in the outlay for the external affairs ministry in the budget for 2024-25 was 779 crore, up from the 600 crore projected earlier.

“We remain an important, committed development partner for the Maldives,” he said.

The Maldives has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of India’s “Neighbourhood First” policy and New Delhi has poured billions of dollars, including grants and soft loans, into development and infrastructure projects in the archipelago.

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