Maldives says 76 Indian military personnel replaced by civilians to operate 3 aviation platforms gifted by India

Maldives Minister of Foreign Affairs Moosa Zameer on Saturday said 76 Indian military personnel were replaced by civilian employees of the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited which manufactured the helicopters gifted by India, thus also ending the suspense over the exact number of those repatriated.
Maldives
Maldives

Male | Maldives Minister of Foreign Affairs Moosa Zameer on Saturday said 76 Indian military personnel were replaced by civilian employees of the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited which manufactured the helicopters gifted by India, thus also ending the suspense over the exact number of those repatriated.

The Indian military personnel, stationed in the Maldives to operate two platforms for helicopters and a Dornier aircraft used primarily for medical evacuations, were repatriated by Friday, as per the May 10 deadline set following an agreement between the two countries in February in New Delhi.

That agreement was a result of the demand of pro-China President Mohamed Muizzu made within hours of his assuming office in November.

Local media reports on Saturday quoted Zameer addressing a press conference a day after he returned from his first official visit to India, detailing the presence of Indian soldiers stationed in Hanimaadhoo, Kadhdhoo and Gan.

“As many as 26 soldiers withdrew from Gan between March 7 and March 9, while another 25 soldiers withdrew from Hanimaadhoo between April 7 and April 9, and 12 withdrew from Kadhdhoo on Tuesday. The final batch of 13 soldiers withdrew from Kadhdhoo on Thursday,” news portal Sun.mv reported, quoting Zameer as saying.

The Maldivian government had previously said that documents show there are 89 Indian soldiers in the Maldives, to operate two military helicopters and a Dornier aircraft, it added.

Zameer said that it is the civilian employees of the company that manufactured the Indian-gifted helicopters, the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) that have come to replace the Indian military personnel.

Edition.mv, another news portal, said that the minister while addressing the concerns raised by many alleging that the military personnel still remained in Maldives but in civilian clothes, said: “Indian military was not here under any deception, were they?

So there is no reason for us to have doubts when the Government of India has stated that these are civilians.” Minister of Defence Mohamed Ghassan Maumoon, who also addressed the press conference, confirmed that the Maldives government had ensured that the people who had arrived to replace the Indian military personnel were, in fact, civilians.

“The command and control of the aircraft are now officially under the Defence Ministry and Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF),” Ghassan was quoted as saying by the Edition.mv.

Relations between India and Maldives deteriorated since Muizzu came to power in November last year even while the archipelagic nation maintained closer ties with China. He also travelled to China in January and met top Chinese leaders, including President Xi Jinping.

When Zameer was in India on Thursday, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar conveyed to him that the development of India-Maldives ties is based on “mutual interests” and “reciprocal sensitivity.” The Maldivian foreign ministry said Jaishankar and Zameer discussed all aspects of the India-Maldives partnership to forge opportunities for future collaboration.

The Maldives is India's key maritime neighbour in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and occupies a special place in its initiatives like ‘SAGAR' (Security and Growth for All in the Region) and the ‘Neighbourhood First Policy' of the Indian government.

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