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Discussions to retain helicopter, Dornier operations; Indian officials

Mohamed Rehan
05 December 2023, MVT 10:18
Helicopters gifted by the Indian government; used for operations by the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF)-- Photo: Mihaaru
Mohamed Rehan
05 December 2023, MVT 10:18

Indian officials have said that discussions were held with President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu on retaining the operations of the helicopters and Dornier aircraft gifted by the Indian government, despite recent agreement to withdraw its soldiers from the Maldives.

Several Indian officials who were part of the country's delegation to the COP28 summit made these remarks in response to the recent announcement by President Muizzu regarding India's acceptance to honor the Maldivian government's request to withdraw its troops. President Muizzu shared this information following discussions he held with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the Climate Change Conference in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

While officials deflected responding to media questions, they consistently emphasized that the Maldivian government recognized the importance of retaining the aircraft for crucial operations.

"Maldives acknowledged the importance of the vessels as well, and discussions on maintaining their operations without interventions are still underway. The core group, formed under the agreement between the two countries, would make an eventual decision on the matter," a senior Indian official stated to Reuters.

While President Muizzu claimed several thousand Indian soldiers were present in the Maldives during his presidential campaign, his government revealed the presence of just 77 military personnel following his inauguration. The figure corresponds with the officers assigned to operate, manage and maintain the helicopters and the Dornier aircraft.

President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu with Indian Prime Minister Naredra Modi at the COP28 in Dubai, UAE-- Photo: President's Office

Another official speaking to 'The Print', an Indian media, said Maldives highlighted the importance of keeping the aircraft and helicopters active, and added that both nations viewed sustainability of the operations important.

"Maldives reiterated importance of maintaining the vessels' operations. Truth is both India and Maldives view these as a symbol of the bilateral partnership between the countries. Discussions are currently underway on how to sustain their operations operations," another official said.

The same had been reported by another senior Indian government official to The Hindustan Times as well.

Reaffirming his administration's pledge of dispelling Indian military from the Maldives, President Muizzu on Sunday, December 3 said that the Indian government has agreed on withdrawing its troops.

"Indian soldiers would be withdrawn from the Maldives, and our efforts are focused on expediting this. I am confident we will achieve this through diplomatic principles," President Muizzu said.

President Muizzu further noted that the exact date for the military disengagement would be decided through the core group's discussion.

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