New Delhi has announced plans to replace its military personnel stationed in the Maldives with “competent Indian technical personnel,” according to statements from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Thursday. This decision follows a recent high-level meeting between India and the Maldives and aims to address evolving dynamics in the strategic partnership between the two nations.
MEA spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal clarified the move during a regular media briefing, stating, “I would like to say that the present personnel will be replaced by competent Indian technical personnel.” However, specific details regarding the transition were not immediately disclosed.
Currently, India maintains approximately 80 personnel, including medical staff, to operate three aircraft within the Maldives’ vast maritime territory. The decision to replace military personnel with civilians comes in response to President Mohamed Muizzu’s stance, who emphasized the removal of Indian forces as a key objective during the presidential elections last year.
After a recent meeting in New Delhi, the Maldives issued a statement indicating an agreement between both parties to replace military personnel in one aviation platform by March 10 and the remaining platforms by May 10. However, Indian officials did not explicitly mention troop withdrawal in their statements following the meeting.
The MEA emphasized the importance of continued cooperation between India and the Maldives, affirming their commitment as development partners. Jaiswal addressed concerns regarding India’s aid allocation for the Maldives, stating that while initial interpretations suggested a decrease in budgetary allocation, the actual figure had risen to INR 779 crore from the projected INR 600 crore.
In exploring options to replace military personnel, India is considering employing civilian operators familiar with the aviation platforms, including retired personnel from the armed services with experience in aircraft operation and maintenance.
As both nations navigate the transition, the move underscores India’s commitment to strengthening bilateral ties with the Maldives while adapting to evolving geopolitical realities in the Indian Ocean region.