First batch of Indian military personnel operating helicopter leaves Maldives: Report

Indian military personnel stationed in the Maldives manning the operations of a helicopter have departed from the island nation after handing over the operations of the chopper to an Indian civilian crew, as reported by the Maldivian media yesterday.

A media official for the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) told the Adhadhu news portal that the Indian soldiers who were stationed in Addu city are now back in India after handing over the operations of a helicopter to an Indian civil crew.

There was no immediate confirmation from India’s defence ministry on the withdrawal of the first batch of Indian military personnel from the Maldives as reported by the media here.

Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu, seen as a pro-China leader, has affirmed that no Indian military personnel, not even those in civilian clothing, would be present inside his country after May 10.

“There will be no Indian troops in the country come May 10. Not in uniform and not in civilian clothing. The Indian military will not be residing in this country in any form of clothing. I state this with confidence,” Muizzu was quoted as saying by the local media last week.

After a high-level meeting in New Delhi on February 2 between the two sides, the Maldivian foreign ministry said India would replace its military personnel operating the three aviation platforms in the Maldives by May 10 and the first phase of the process would be completed by March 10.

India had agreed to remove its troops from the Maldives under the condition that a number of their civilians equivalent to the military presence are brought to operate the aircraft.

Muizzu rode to power last year on an anti-India stance and within hours of taking oath demanded India to remove its personnel from the strategically located archipelago nation in the Indian Ocean.

Muizzu’s government also allowed a sophisticated Chinese ‘research ship’ to dock at Male. Last week, the MNDF signed a deal with China’s military. Under this deal, China will supply ‘non-lethal’ weapons to the Maldives free of cost.

The first group of Indian civilian personnel, which included 26 people, arrived on February 26 to replace the Indian military personnel operating a helicopter in Addu city.

India also sent a new helicopter and transported the old helicopter used in Addu city for repairs. A ship carrying the new helicopter docked in Addu on February 29.

President Muizzu asked India to withdraw nearly 90 military personnel from the Maldives and India agreed to replace the military personnel with civilians and to continue the operations of two helicopters and a Dornier aircraft provided to the country for providing humanitarian and medical evacuation services.

The Maldives’ proximity to India, barely 70 nautical miles from the island of Minicoy in Lakshadweep and 300 nautical miles from the mainland’s western coast, and its location at the hub of commercial sea lanes running through the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) gives it significant strategic importance.