The Maldives and India on Sunday conducted the third meeting of their High-Level Core Group in Malé. The discussions, held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, underscored the substantial progress in the ongoing effort to replace Indian military personnel with civilians at aviation platforms in the Maldives—a critical aspect of the diplomatic engagement between the two nations.

The meeting highlighted the successful replacement of military personnel with civilians at one aviation platform, with plans firmly in place to complete the transition for the remaining two platforms by 10 April and 10 May 2024, respectively. 

This move is part of a broader initiative aimed at reducing the military footprint in the Maldives, in line with President Dr. Mohamed Muizzu’s pledge to remove foreign troops, which has been a source of domestic and bilateral discourse.

Beyond the military personnel replacement, the High-Level Core Group’s discussions spanned a wide array of topics, focusing on economic and development cooperation. Both sides reviewed the capacity-building programmes that have recently concluded, and explored avenues to expedite the implementation of ongoing developmental cooperation projects. 

These talks are indicative of the deepening partnership between the Maldives and India, extending beyond security concerns to encompass economic and developmental synergies.

The Indian Ministry of External Affairs, in a press briefing on Thursday, provided further clarity on the troop replacement process. Shri Randhir Jaiswal, the Official Spokesperson, confirmed the completion of the turnaround for the first team of personnel operating the Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH), marking a pivotal moment in the fulfillment of the agreed-upon deadlines.

This development reflects a significant step towards addressing concerns over sovereignty and foreign military presence, which have been central to the political narrative within the Maldives. The transition to civilian operators is seen as a move to assuage public and political apprehensions, ensuring that emergency response and humanitarian missions continue without compromising the nation’s autonomy.

The commitment to a fourth meeting of the High-Level Core Group in New Delhi, on a mutually agreeable date, signals the intention of both nations to sustain and build upon this momentum.