India, Maldives to discuss ‘workable solutions’ for continued military cooperation: Report

Following a meeting between Union minister Kiren Rijiju and newly elected Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu in Male on Saturday, official sources have said that the two countries have decided to talk about “workable solutions” to ensure that the island nation of the Maldives continues to use Indian military platforms, as reported by news agency PTI.

Rijiju called on Muizzu at his office a day after attending the Maldvian leader’s inauguration ceremony. Muizzu is widely seen as a pro-China leader had promised to ensure the removal of Indian troops and maintain geopolitical neutrality if he is elected to power. The Maldivian defence force had said in 2021 that about 75 Indian military personnel were located in the country to maintain and operate an aircraft that was provided as an aid in 2020.

A statement released by the Maldivian president’s office said Muizzu “formally requested the government of India to withdraw its military personnel from the Maldives” in the meeting.

Muizzu has maintained that he will keep his election promise of evicting Indian military personnel from his country.

“At the meeting, President Muizzu had formally requested the Government of India to withdraw its military personnel from the Maldives,” the statement said.

“The President noted that at the presidential election held in September, the Maldivian people had given him a strong mandate to make the request to India and expressed the hope that India will honour the democratic will of the people of the Maldives,” it added.

As per Indian government sources, Muizzu, in the meeting, brought up the issue of Indian military personnel present in the Maldives for operating aircraft for medical evacuation and to counter drug trafficking. The President also acknowledged the contribution of the Indian helicopters and aircraft for medical evacuation of Maldivian citizens, as per the sources.

“They are also central to the confidence that international tourists have in staying in remote islands. He appreciated their role in monitoring and combating drug trafficking,” said a source.

“It was agreed that the two governments would discuss workable solutions for continued cooperation through the use of these platforms as this serves the interests of the people of the Maldives,” it said.

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 have been on an upward trajectory under the government of Ibrahim Solih.

Incidentally, a Dornier aircraft given to Maldives by India on Saturday carried out a medical evacuation of a 36-year-old woman. The aircraft is being operated by Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF).

“A medical evacuation of a 36-year-old female in critical condition was carried out from Th. Atoll Hospital to Male’ City by MNDF Central Area Command via MNDF Dornier Aircraft today at 17:04 hours,” the MNDF said on X.

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Updated: 19 Nov 2023, 01:32 PM IST

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