India: Troops in Maldives will be replaced by ‘technical personnel’

Maldivian President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu meets India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi on December 1, 2023. (Photo/President's Office)

The Indian government said on Thursday that its troops in the Maldives will be replaced by “competent technical personnel.”

According to the latest government figures, there are 88 Indian military personnel in Maldives, to provide support for military equipment given by New Delhi.

Maldives and India have set up a high-level core group to negotiate the withdrawal of troops.

Following the second meeting of the high-level core group in New Delhi last week, the Maldivian Foreign Ministry said that both sides agreed that the India will “replace the military personnel in one of the three aviation platform” by March 10, and will “complete replacing military personnel in the other two platforms” by May 10.

In a press briefing on Thursday, Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal was asked about what the replacement of the troops mean.

"What we had to say, we made it out in the press release. This was done after the second high-level core group meeting. We also said that the third core group meeting will be subsequently held,” responded Jaiswal.

"I would like to say, the present personnel will be replaced by competent Indian technical personnel.”

The high-level core group held its second meeting in New Delhi on February 2, and are set to hold the third meeting in Male’ later this month.

In a statement regarding the meeting, the Maldivian Foreign Ministry said that India had agreed to start pulling out its troops on March 10th, and complete the process within two months.

The ministry added that both sides also reviewed “the existing bilateral cooperation to improve and enhance the partnership in defense and security cooperation, and economic development.

However, the Indian government's statement on the meeting made no explicit reference to any withdrawal.

The Indian External Affairs Ministry said the two sides had "agreed on a set of mutually workable solutions, to enable continued operation of Indian aviation platforms, that provide humanitarian and medevac services to the people of Maldives.”

The Indian troops are deployed to operate three Indian-donated maritime reconnaissance aircraft; two helicopters, and a fixed-wing plane - which have also been used for medical evacuations in the Maldives.

Maldivian President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu, who got elected to office on the promise of removing all foreign military presence in the Maldives, made a formal request to India to withdraw its troops from the country on November 18, the day after he took office. He initially asked India to withdraw all troops by March 15.