India and the Maldives have agreed on a phased withdrawal of Indian military personnel stationed in the Maldives. The decision came during the second meeting of the High-level Core Group between the two nations, held in New Delhi on Friday.

The bilateral talks, hosted at India’s Ministry of External Affairs, focused on reviewing and enhancing the partnership in areas of defence, security cooperation, and economic and development partnership.

A mutual agreement was reached, setting a timeline for the replacement of military personnel on one of the three aviation platforms by 10 March 2024, with the remaining personnel on the other two platforms scheduled for withdrawal by 10 May 2024.

This agreement comes after Indian Navy Chief Admiral R. Hari Kumar indicated in an interview with CNN-News 18 two weeks ago that the Indian government had not yet issued directives for defence personnel withdrawal from the Maldives.

The current deployment includes approximately 88 Indian soldiers, supporting military equipment provided by New Delhi and assisting in humanitarian operations.

The Maldivian Ministry of Defence has been working on declassifying information regarding the presence of Indian troops in the Maldives from previous administrations, following numerous RTI requests from local media.

This effort aims to clarify the extent and purpose of Indian military involvement in the nation, amidst controversies and political pledges by the current Maldivian government to reduce the foreign military footprint.

The establishment of a “core group” comprising representatives from both the Maldives and India marks a proactive approach towards expediting the withdrawal process and reflects a significant shift in the bilateral relationship between the two countries.

The third meeting of the High-Level Core Group is scheduled to be held in Male’ during the last week of February, on a mutually agreeable date, to further this initiative.