Defence relations with India go beyond military personnel: Maldives Foreign Minister

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar meets with Maldives Foreign Minister Moosa Zameer, in New Delhi on 9 May, 2024ANI

Maldives Foreign Minister Moosa Zameer on Thursday said that his country’s defence relations with India go beyond military personnel and the two countries will work together to make the Indian Ocean a peaceful place.

The Maldives minister, who arrived in India on 8 May, told ANI in an interview that the platforms that were being handled by Indian military personnel in his country, will be handled by civilians.

“I think Maldives-India defence relations go beyond military personnel. And now, those platforms which have been handled by the military personnel will be handled by civilians. We have had a joint exercise with the Maldivian military, Indian military and Sri Lanka, I think Bangladesh is an observer and we will continue to have these exercises,” Zameer said.

“Peace and security of the Indian Ocean is important for both Maldives as well as India. So we will work together to make the Indian Ocean a peaceful place,” he added.

The minister was asked about his visit coming a day before the 10 May date for the withdrawal of Indian military troops from Maldives.

Indian military personnel were operating two helicopters and a Dornier aircraft in Maldives meant for providing humanitarian and medical evacuation services. They have been replaced by “competent Indian technical personnel”.

On 3 May, India and Maldives held the fourth meeting of the bilateral High-Level Core Group and reviewed the replacement of Indian military personnel from the Island nation by 10 May.

Mohamed Muizzu-led government had formally requested India withdraw its troops from Maldives.

In his remarks during his meeting with the visiting Maldives foreign minister, India’s external affairs minister S Jaishankar said India has been a key provider of development assistance to the Maldives.

“Our projects have benefited the lives of people of your country, contributed directly to the quality of life. They range from infrastructure projects and social initiatives to medical evacuation and health facilities. We have also extended financial support on favourable terms in the past. India has been a First Responder on numerous occasions for Maldives. Our cooperation has also enhanced the security and well-being of your country through shared activities, equipment provisioning, capacity building and training,” he said.

Jaishankar also said that as close and proximate neighbours, the development of bilateral ties is obviously based on mutual interests and reciprocal sensitivity.

“As far as India is concerned, these are articulated in terms of our Neighbourhood First policy and SAGAR vision.”

Jaishankar said the world is today passing through a volatile and uncertain period. “In such times, as we saw during Covid, during natural disasters and economic difficulties, close partnerships with neighbours are of great value,” he said.

Coast guard personnel from India, Maldives and Sri Lanka carried out a four-day trilateral exercise ‘DOSTI 16’ to identify emerging maritime challenges in the Indian Ocean Region in February this year. Bangladesh had participated as an observer.