New Delhi, February 2, 2024: In a crucial diplomatic development, India and the Maldives are engaged in talks on Friday to address the ongoing issue concerning the continued operation of Indian military platforms in the island nation. The second meeting of the India-Maldives high-level core group is currently underway in Delhi, following the initial meeting held in Male over two weeks ago, which did not yield significant progress on the matter.
According to sources familiar with the matter, the focus of the core group meeting is to find a mutually acceptable solution to ensure the continued operation of Indian military platforms in the Maldives. This discussion comes in the wake of Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu’s request last month for the withdrawal of all Indian military personnel from the island nation by March 15.
Presently, approximately 80 Indian military personnel are stationed in the Maldives, primarily tasked with operating two helicopters and an aircraft that have been instrumental in conducting numerous medical evacuations and humanitarian missions. The establishment of the core group was decided upon during a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Muizzu on the sidelines of the COP28 summit in Dubai in December.
The strained relations between the two countries intensified after President Muizzu assumed power in November, maintaining his election promise of evicting Indian military personnel from the Maldives. This move raised concerns, as Muizzu is perceived as a leader with pro-China inclinations. The Maldives, a crucial maritime neighbor in the Indian Ocean Region, has historically maintained strong bilateral ties with India.
Following the first core group meeting on January 14, the Ministry of External Affairs highlighted that both sides were actively seeking a mutually workable solution to enable the continued operation of Indian aviation platforms, crucial for providing humanitarian and medical evacuation services to the people of the Maldives. The outcome of the ongoing talks will likely have significant implications on the strategic and defense cooperation between India and the Maldives.