Second batch of Indian military personnel leaves Maldives

Male: The second batch of Indian military personnel manning an aircraft gifted by India to the Maldives has left the island nation as demanded by President Mohamed Muizzu, according to a media report on Sunday.The second group of Indian military personnel who left the Maldives on April 9 were Indian soldiers who operated the Dornier aircraft, news portal reported. Earlier it was thought that the Indian military personnel who left the island nation were operating a helicopter.

The departure of the second batch of Indian soldiers was first announced by President Muizzu on Friday during an election campaign meeting.
"The first team has already gone. Now, on April 9, the soldiers on the second platform have also been withdrawn," Muizzu, widely seen as a pro-China leader, said.

"Adhadhu has confirmed from a reliable source that the group that left on April 9 included Indian soldiers based in Haa Dhaal Hanimaadhoo for Dornier flights. Civilian or technical personnel brought in their place have since arrived in Hanimaadhoo," the news portal quoted a source as saying.
The Maldives government has not officially disclosed any details on the latest withdrawal of Indian military personnel from the country.

Muizzu announced the withdrawal of the second Indian military contingent from the Maldives while speaking during a campaign event in Addu city for the ruling People's National Congress party candidates ahead of the parliamentary elections scheduled for April 21.

"The first team has already gone. Now, on April 9, the soldiers on the second platform have also been withdrawn," Muizzu, who has been demanding the withdrawal of foreign soldiers from the Maldives during his election campaign last year.

Muizzu had set March 10 as the deadline for the withdrawal of the first group of Indian military personnel from his country.

Under an agreement between Maldives and India in February, New Delhi agreed to replace the Indian military personnel stationed in Maldives to oversee the operations of the military aircraft the country has gifted with trained civilians also from India.

Muizzu also said the Indian soldiers on the last aviation platform would also leave the Maldives before the May 10 deadline set by him and that would mark the fulfilment of his pledge to remove Indian soldiers from the island nation.

"There is only one platform left. As the two countries have already signed, they [the remaining Indian military personnel] will also be recalled ahead of May 10. They will leave," Muizzu was quoted as saying by news portal on Saturday.

According to the Maldives government, 88 Indian soldiers were stationed in the Maldives to operate helicopters in Addu and Laamu Kadhdhoo and a Dornier aircraft in Hanimaadhoo. The figure also includes doctors at the Senahiya military hospital, according to local media reports.

The first group of Indian soldiers left the Maldives on March 11. The Defence Ministry said 26 soldiers based in Addu were replaced by 26 Indian civilians. India also replaced the old helicopter in Addu with a new one.
During his address, Muizzu also reaffirmed that foreign ambassadors in Male will not wield authority over him emphasising that ultimate power rests with the citizens.

Last month, he had alleged that his predecessor Ibrahim Mohamed Solih operated on the orders from "a foreign ambassador" without naming any country.

Relations between Maldives and India have deteriorated since Muizzu came to power in November last year while closer ties are maintained with China. He also travelled to China in January and met top Chinese leaders, including President Xi Jinping.

China and the Maldives recently signed a defence cooperation agreement and several other infrastructure development projects.

The Maldives is India's key maritime neighbour in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and occupies a special place in its initiatives like 'SAGAR' (Security and Growth for All in the Region) and the 'Neighbourhood First Policy' of the Indian government.

( Source : PTI )
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