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Rediff.com  » News » Maldives asks India to withdraw troops by Mar 15; two sides explore solution

Maldives asks India to withdraw troops by Mar 15; two sides explore solution

Source: PTI   -  Edited By: Senjo M R
Last updated on: January 14, 2024 20:48 IST
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Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu on Sunday asked India to withdraw its military personnel from his country by March 15 even as the two sides deliberated on finding a "mutually workable solution" to enable continued operation of the Indian military platforms in the island nation.

IMAGE: Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu on the sidelines of the COP28 Summit in Dubai on December 1, 2023. Photograph: ANI Photo

The issue was extensively discussed at the first meeting of the India-Maldives high-level core group in Male.

 

The two sides decided to set up the core group on the contentious issue following a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Maldivian President Muizzu on the sidelines of the COP28 summit in Dubai last month.

"Both sides also held discussions on finding a mutually workable solution to enable continued operation of Indian aviation platforms that provide humanitarian and medvac services to the people of Maldives," the ministry of external affairs said in a statement.

Abdulla Nazim Ibrahim, the principal secretary to the Maldivian president, said at a media briefing in Male that Muizzu asked the Maldivian delegation to inform Indian officials in the core group meeting that the troops must be withdrawn by March 15.

"Indian military personnel cannot stay in the Maldives. This is the policy of President Dr Mohamed Muizzu and that of this administration," Ibrahim said.

"During the meeting, both sides held discussions on wide-ranging issues related to bilateral cooperation towards identifying steps to enhance the partnership, including expediting the implementation of ongoing development cooperation projects," the MEA said in a statement.

"It was agreed to hold the next meeting of the high-level core group in India on a mutually convenient date," it said.

Around 90 Indian personnel are currently staying in the Maldives primarily to operate and maintain two helicopters and an aircraft.

The Indian delegation at the meeting comprised high commissioner Munu Mahawar and a number of other diplomats from the Indian mission.

The Maldivian team comprised the ambassador at large in the foreign ministry, Ali Naseer Mohamed, and the Maldivian high commissioner to India, Ibrahim Shaheeb, among several other officials.

The India-Maldives ties came under some stress as Muizzu, widely seen as a pro-China leader, maintained after assuming charge as the president that he would keep his election promise of evicting Indian military personnel from his country.

The Maldives is one of India's key maritime neighbours in the Indian Ocean Region and the overall bilateral ties including in areas of defence and security witnessed an upward trajectory under the previous government in Male.

Muizzu was sworn in as the new Maldivian president on November 17.

A day after taking charge of the top office, he called for the withdrawal of Indian military personnel from the Maldives.

Muizzu has been maintaining that he will keep his election promise of evicting Indian military personnel from his country.

The Maldivian president returned from a six-day visit to China on Saturday. The visit saw both sides ink a number of pacts to expand ties.

Speaking to the media in Male on his return, Muizzu indirectly took a jibe at India. "We may be small, but that doesn't give you the license to bully us," he said.

He also announced plans to reduce the country's dependency on India, including securing imports of essential food commodities and medicine and consumables from other countries.

A massive row erupted last week after three deputy ministers in Muizzu's government made derogatory posts against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Deputy ministers in the youth ministry Malsha Shareef, Mariyam Shiuna and Abdulla Mahzoom Majid were suspended by the Maldivian government after India strongly raised the issue with Male.

The three deputy ministers used disparaging comments against Modi for his post on 'X' following his visit to Lakshadweep, inferring that it was an attempt to project the Union Territory as an alternative tourist destination to the Maldives.

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Source: PTI  -  Edited By: Senjo M R© Copyright 2024 PTI. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of PTI content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent.
 
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