Responding to Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu's request to withdraw Indian troops from the archipelago, India has decided to replace them with “competent Indian technical personnel”, Hindustan Times reported.
During a weekly press briefing on Thursday (8 February), Ministry of External Affairs' (MEA) spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal expressed his commitment towards remaining an important development partner for the Maldives.
The statement is important amid the budding diplomatic rift between the two neighbourhood countries after the election of a pro-China President Muizzu, who is adamant about his 'India Out' campaign.
Currently, India has two helicopters and an aircraft along with over 75 Indian military personnel for medical evacuations and humanitarian aid. However, Muizzu demanded the withdrawal of the personnel by 15 March.
A high-level core group was formed by the two countries to resolve the issue. After its second meeting, India said on 2 February that both countries have agreed on "mutually workable solutions."
Maldives President informed parliament earlier this week that an agreement has been reached between New Delhi and Male, according to which Indian troops in the Maldives will leave by 10 May, with the withdrawal process commencing by 10 March.
“I would like to say that the present personnel will be replaced by competent Indian technical personnel,” the MEA spokesperson said without giving further details about who these personnel will be.
Reportedly, these personnel can be retired officials from the three services with experience in flying and maintaining the aircraft. Moreover, a third meeting of the high-level core group is also planned.
Jaiswal highlighted, " Budget for the Maldives this time is Rs 779 crore..it has actually gone up (from Rs 600 crore projected earlier). The new figure will also be revised once we have more details and more clarity on what sort of forward movement is happening."
Nishtha Anushree is Senior Sub-editor at Swarajya. She tweets at @nishthaanushree.
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