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SOURCE: ANI

India will replace military personnel at aviation platforms in the Maldives with competent Indian technical personnel, the Ministry of External Affairs said on Thursday. The Mohamed Muizzu-led Maldives government has formally requested that India withdraw its troops from Male.

In this regard, a second high-level group meeting 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 Randhir 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 will be subsequently held.”

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

After the second meeting, the Maldives Foreign Ministry in a statement said that India will replace its military personnel in 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 in one of the three aviation platform by March 10, 2024, and will complete replacing military personnel in the other two platforms by 10 May 2024,” the statement read.

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

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

Previously, Maldives local media had reported that President Mohamed Muizzu had asked the Indian government to withdraw the Indian troops from the island nation before March 15.

Notably, the removal of Indian troops from the country was the main election campaign of Muizzu’s party. 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 Maldives in the Interim Budget 2024-25.

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.

“There are many conflicting ways, in which people are this budgetary. I saw some media reports saying that the allocation has gone up, some are saying it has gone down. Certain amount of money is allocated and then revisions are made, and thereafter there is a phase of revision, during that phase of revision, new proposals are considered,” the MEA spokesperson said.

He added, “The allocation for Maldives this time is ? 779 crore as against ? 600 crore projected earlier. The new figures will also be revised when we have more clarity on what sort of forward movement is happening. We remain a committed development partner for Maldives.”