India and Maldives in talks over troop presence: 2nd core group meeting underway

Muizzu’s victory over Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, who maintained friendly ties with India, has led to concerns about a potential shift in the Maldives’ foreign policy towards closer alignment with China.

India and the Maldives are engaged in crucial discussions aimed at resolving the issue of Indian military personnel stationed in the island nation. The second meeting of the India-Maldives high-level core group is currently underway in Delhi, following an initial meeting in Male that failed to yield significant progress on the matter.

According to sources, the core group meeting is focused on finding a mutually acceptable solution to enable the continued operation of Indian military platforms in the Maldives. This dialogue comes after Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu requested the withdrawal of all Indian military personnel from the country by March 15.

Presently, approximately 80 Indian military personnel are stationed in the Maldives to operate two helicopters and an aircraft that have been instrumental in conducting numerous medical evacuations and humanitarian missions. However, tensions have risen between the two nations since Muizzu assumed office in November, with the president reaffirming his intention to fulfil his election promise of evicting Indian military personnel.

Muizzu’s victory over Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, who maintained friendly ties with India, has led to concerns about a potential shift in the Maldives’ foreign policy towards closer alignment with China. Despite the strained relations, India considers the Maldives a key maritime neighbour in the Indian Ocean Region, and bilateral ties, particularly in defence and security, experienced significant progress under the previous government.

The establishment of the core group was decided during a meeting between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Maldivian President Muizzu at the COP28 summit in Dubai in December. Following the first core group meeting on January 14, the Ministry of External Affairs stated that both sides were committed to finding a mutually workable solution to ensure the continued operation of Indian aviation platforms providing humanitarian and medical evacuation services to the people of the Maldives.

As the discussions continue, both India and the Maldives are seeking to navigate through the complexities of their bilateral relationship, balancing strategic interests with regional dynamics. The outcome of these talks will not only impact the security cooperation between the two nations but also have broader implications for the geopolitical landscape of the Indian Ocean Region.