NEW DELHI, Feb 8: Days after the second high-level meeting between India and the Maldives, New Delhi has confirmed that the current personnel in the island country will be replaced by “competent Indian technical personnel.”
The Ministry of External Affairs, however, refused to elaborate on what the term “technical personnel” meant. After conflicting reports on India’s aid allocation for the Maldives in this year’s Budget, MEA spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal also clarified on Thursday that the new figure could be revised and India remained “an important development partner” of the island nation.
India has around 80 personnel, including medical staff, to operate three aircraft in the archipelago nation’s vast maritime territory, and the “eviction” of Indian forces had been a core plank of Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu in the lead-up to the presidential elections last year.
After the meeting in New Delhi last week, the Maldives had issued a statement claiming that both sides had agreed that India would replace military personnel in one of the three aviation platforms by March 10 and the others by May 10.
India had, however, made no mention of withdrawing troops, stating, “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.”
“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 (medical evacuation) to the people of Maldives,” the MEA had said
To a question on the aid allocation for the Maldives, Mr Jaiswal said some had interpreted the budgetary allocation as going down, while others have said it has gone up. “What happens is that a certain amount of money is allocated and, thereafter, there is a phase for revision… So you would see that the budget for the Maldives, this time, what has been given is ₹ 779 crore as against ₹ 600 crore which was projected earlier, so it has actually gone up. The new figures will also be revised once we have more details, more clarity on what sort of forward movement is happening,” he said.