NEW DELHI (Agencies): Indian military personnel have withdrawn from the Maldives, following a directive from the country’s President, Mohamed Muizzu, who is fostering stronger relations with Beijing. The deadline for the withdrawal, set by Muizzu, was May 10. This move was a key promise of Muizzu’s 2023 presidential campaign.

Upon assuming office, President Muizzu requested the withdrawal of approximately 80 Indian military personnel, primarily responsible for operating two Dornier aircraft and a helicopter provided by India for emergency evacuations. These personnel are now being replaced by civilians.

India’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Randhir Jaiswal, confirmed that both nations are collaborating to ensure the continued operation of the aircraft, with skilled Indian technical personnel being deployed to the islands as replacements.

This development coincided with the first visit of Maldivian Foreign Minister Moosa Zameer to New Delhi. During his visit, he discussed bilateral ties with his Indian counterpart, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar. Despite the ongoing tensions, India has approved its highest-ever export quotas for essential commodities to the Maldives for 2024-25 and has accelerated its projects in the Maldives.

However, relations between the two nations soured earlier this year when derogatory comments about Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi were made by some Maldivian officials. In response, the Maldives distanced itself from the remarks and temporarily suspended the involved minister.

The controversy led to calls for a boycott of the Maldives by Indian tourists, who typically constitute a significant portion of visitors to the islands. In response, President Muizzu suggested increasing tourist visits from China. However, Maldivian Tourism Minister Ibrahim Faisal recently urged Indians to continue visiting the Maldives, citing the importance of tourism to their economy.

Concerns have also been raised by New Delhi over the presence of a Chinese research vessel, the Xiang Yang Hong 03, in Maldivian waters due to espionage fears. The Maldivian Foreign Minister reiterated during his India visit that the Chinese vessel was not permitted to conduct research in its waters.

By Media

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