New Delhi | India will replace its military personnel in the three aviation platforms in the Maldives by May 10 and the first phase of the process would be completed by March 10, the Maldivian Foreign Ministry said on Friday after a high-level meeting between the two sides on the contentious issue.
The Maldivian foreign ministry's comments came hours after the India-Maldives core group concluded a meeting in Delhi that primarily focused on withdrawal of Indian military personnel from the island nation.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said both sides agreed on a "set of mutually workable solutions" to enable continued operation of Indian aviation platforms in the island nation.
Last month, Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu asked India to withdraw all its military personnel from the island nation by March 15.
"Both sides agreed that the Government of India will replace the military personnel in one of the three aviation platform by March 10 and will complete replacing military personnel in the other two platforms by May 10," the Maldivian foreign ministry said.
In its statement, the MEA said both sides "agreed on a set of mutually workable solutions to enable continued operation of Indian aviation platforms" that provide humanitarian and medical evacuation services to the people of Maldives.
It was agreed to hold the next meeting of the high level core group in Male' on a mutually convenient date, it said.
"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 said.
The two sides decided to set up the core group following a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Muizzu on the sidelines of the COP28 summit in Dubai in December.
At present, around 80 Indian military personnel are in the Maldives primarily to operate two helicopters and an aircraft which carried out hundreds of medical evacuations and humanitarian missions.
The ties between the two countries came under some strain since he came to power in November.
Muizzu, widely seen as a pro-China leader, maintained after assuming charge as the president that he will keep his election promise of evicting Indian military personnel from his country.
Muizzu, 45, defeated India-friendly incumbent Ibrahim Mohamed Solih in the presidential runoff held in September last year.
The Maldives is one of India's key maritime neighbours in the Indian Ocean Region and the overall bilateral ties including in areas of defence and security witnessed an upward trajectory under the previous government in Male.
Muizzu was sworn in as the new Maldivian president on November 17.
A day after taking charge of the top office, he called for the withdrawal of Indian military personnel from the Maldives.
After the first meeting of the core group on January 14, the Ministry of External Affairs said that sides were looking at finding a mutually workable solution to enable continued operation of Indian aviation platforms that provide humanitarian and medical evacuation services to the people of Maldives.