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SOURCE: ANI

The Indian High Commissioner to the Maldives, Munu Mahawar, paid a courtesy call on Maldivian Commissioner General of Customs, Yoosuf Maaniu Mohamed, on Thursday. The discussions were centred around new areas of capacity building and collaboration in trade facilitation and mutual security.

Both countries came to an agreement on exploring and carrying forward the multifaceted collaboration between the Maldives Customs Service (MCS) and the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC). The meeting took place in the backdrop of the strain in bilateral ties between the two countries over the disparaging social media posts by Maldivian junior ministers and government officials against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to Lakshadweep and the request for the withdrawal of Indian troops by Maladivian President Mohamed Muizzu.

Taking to X, the Indian High Commission to the Maldives shared details of the meeting, posting, “A productive meeting with H.E. Commissioner General @yoosufmaaniu to further enhance our multifaceted collaboration between @CustomsMv and @cbic_india on capacity building, trade facilitation, and mutual security.”

“High Commissioner of India to the Maldives H.E. @AmbMunu paid a courtesy call on Commissioner General @yoosufmaaniu. The discussions were on strengthening coordination and cooperation as well as on proposed new areas for capacity building and training of MCS staff,” read a post on the official X handle of Maldives Custom Service.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Thursday said India will replace military personnel at aviation platforms in the Maldives with ‘competent technical personnel’.

The Muizzu-led Maldivian government had formally requested that India withdraw its troops from Male.
A second high-level group meeting in this regard took place in New Delhi on February 2, and a third meeting is scheduled to be held later this month.

Addressing a weekly press briefing in the national capital, MEA spokesperson Randir Jaiswal said, “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 would be subsequently held.”

“I would like to say that the present personnel will be replaced by competent Indian technical personnel,” Mr Jaiswal said.

After the second meeting, the Maldives Foreign Ministry said in a statement that India will replace its military personnel on one of the three aviation platforms in the Maldives by March 10 and will complete the replacement by May 10.

“Both sides agreed that the Government of India will replace the military personnel on one of the three aviation platforms by March 10, 2024, and will complete replacing military personnel on the other two platforms by May 10, 2024,” the statement read.

Notably, the MEA stated in its statement that both India and the Maldives have agreed on a set of mutually workable solutions to enable the continued operation of Indian aviation platforms that provide humanitarian and medical services to the people of the Maldives.

“Both sides also agreed on a set of mutually workable solutions to enable continued operation of Indian aviation platforms that provide humanitarian and medical services to the people of the Maldives,” it stated.

Notably, the removal of Indian troops from the country was the main campaign plank of Muizzu’s party ahead of the Presidential elections. Currently, there are around 70 Indian troops, along with Dornier 228 maritime patrol aircraft and two HAL Dhruv helicopters, stationed in the Maldives.

A MEA spokesperson also spoke on the speculations regarding budgetary allocation to the Maldives in the Interim Budget 2024-25.

Mr Jaiswal said that ? 779 crore has been allocated for the Maldives as against ? 600 crore as projected earlier, and New Delhi continues to be a ‘committed development partner’ for Male.