India will replace its military personnel in the Maldives with civilian technical personnel, the ministry of external affairs (MEA) said this week.
The decision was reportedly taken at a meeting of the India-Maldives high-level core group last week.
“I would like to say the present personnel would be replaced by competent Indian technical personnel,” MEA spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal said on Thursday.
In a press release after the meeting in New Delhi on 2 February, the MEA did not mention the withdrawal of troops, but said both sides “agreed on a set of mutually workable solutions.”
“During the meeting, both sides continued their 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 statement said.
“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,” the press release added.
However, Maldives media reported that India will “replace” its military personnel in the Maldives in two phases by May 10.
This was reiterated by Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu, who said on Monday in a parliamentary address that the first group of Indian military personnel will be sent back from the island nation before 10 March, while the remaining Indian troops manning two aviation platforms will be withdrawn by 10 May.
India has deployed 77 military personnel to manage two helicopters primarily used for medical emergencies, a Dornier aircraft, and a ship for hydrographic survey in the island nation to provide humanitarian aid and medical evacuation.
Muizzu, who was elected in September 2023, promised to remove the “Indian military presence” in the country during his election campaign.
Diplomat and Press Insider columnist K.P. Fabian had recommended a similar strategy in his column published on 11 January.
“New Delhi could have proposed a face-saving solution by suggesting the immediate withdrawal of the two military helicopters and replacing them with those from a civilian Indian firm,” ambassador Fabian wrote in the column.
“This approach would have allowed Muizzu to tell his voters that he had delivered on his pledge,” he added.