India, Maldives explore deploying civilian operators for platforms

India is looking at options to replace the 77 military personnel that are at the centre of a controversy with the Maldives and the next month’s core group meeting scheduled in Delhi would discuss the topics threadbare.

The personnel are currently deployed in the Maldives to operate two advanced light helicopters and one Dornier maritime surveillance aircraft.

And, these are involved in search and rescue missions, EEZ surveillance and joint hydrography missions.

The assets are directly under control of the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) but are operated by an Indian crew that also imparts training to the Maldivian forces.

Sources said that both sides are exploring workable solutions and the meeting between external affairs minister S Jaishankar and his Maldivian counterpart in Kampala was considerably focused on this issue.

India has always maintained that it did not deploy any troops on the ground in the Maldives as claimed by the current ruling dispensation.

The entire ‘India Out’ campaign focused on withdrawal of ‘troops’ from the Maldives.

The Maldives government has announced a deadline of March 15 for withdrawal of the Indian crew.