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India and the Maldives on Sunday reviewed the ongoing deployment of Indian civilian technical personnel to enable the continued operation of Indian aviation platforms in the island nation.

Both sides carried out the review at the third meeting of the high-level core group held in Male with a focus on withdrawal of Indian military personnel from the island. India on Friday said its first team of military personnel that was operating an advanced light helicopter in the Maldives has returned from that country.

The military team has been replaced by civilian technical experts.

Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu had set a March 10 deadline for the withdrawal of the first group of Indian military personnel from his country.

“During the meeting, both sides reviewed the ongoing deputation of Indian technical personnel to enable continued operation of Indian aviation platforms that provide humanitarian and medvac (medical evacuation) services to the people of Maldives,” the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in a statement.

It said both sides continued their discussions on wide-ranging issues related to bilateral cooperation.

“This inter alia included expediting the implementation of ongoing development cooperation projects through regular convening of joint monitoring mechanisms, efforts to boost bilateral trade and investment and enhancing people-to-people linkages through capacity building and travel,” it said.

It was agreed that the next meeting of the high-level core group will be held in New Delhi on a mutually convenient date.

Following the second meeting of the high-level core group that was set up to address the issue of withdrawal of Indian military personnel, the Maldivian foreign ministry had said India will replace all its military personnel in two phases by May 10.

The second meeting of the core group took place in Delhi on February 2.

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

The ties between India and the Maldives came under some strain since Muizzu came to power in November.

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.

Muizzu, 45, defeated India-friendly incumbent Ibrahim Mohamed Solih in the presidential runoff held in September last year.

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.