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India and Maldives have held two high-level core group meetings with the third one expected to take place soon.

India has replaced its first batch of military soldiers in Maldives with technical personnel, the Ministry of External Affairs said on Friday (March 15).

“The turnaround of the first team of personnel who were operating the ALH helicopter has been completed. So, the first batch that had to be replaced has been completed. The turnaround has happened,” MEA spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal said in a weekly briefing.

President Muizzu, who is largely perceived as a pro-China leader, set March 10 as the deadline for the withdrawal of the first group of Indian military troops from Maldives.

His government had formally requested that India withdraw its troops from Male.

Earlier, the external affairs ministry had informed that both India and the Maldives had mutually agreed on setting up workable solutions in order to enable the ongoing operation of Indian aviation platforms that provide medical as well as humanitarian evacuation services to the people of the Maldives.

India had confirmed late in February that its first civilian team of technical experts had reached the Maldives.

“The first team of technical personnel to operate the advanced light helicopter has reached the Maldives. It will replace the existing personnel who were operating this platform,” Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal had said in New Delhi at his weekly media briefing on February 29.

Both countries have held two high-level core group meetings on the issue, with the third one expected to take place soon.

Muizzu, who came to power in September 2023, had implemented the phased evacuation and it was his election promise that the Indian troops would be removed from the island nation.  

At present, there are approximately 70 Indian troops, along with Dornier 228 maritime patrol aircraft as well as two HAL Dhruv helicopters, stationed in the Maldives.

The Indian security personnel were deployed in the Maldives to patrol its vast maritime border. India has stated that military troops are stationed in the Maldives to maintain and operate two rescue and reconnaissance helicopters, as well as a small aircraft that it provided years ago. 

Muizzu had recently reiterated that “no Indian military personnel” will remain in the country after May 10, “be it in uniform or civilian clothing,” Maldives-based The Edition reported.

(With inputs from agencies)

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