EAM Jaishankar, Maldivian FM Zameer discuss troop withdrawal in India-Maldives talks

Jaishankar engaged in a "frank conversation" with Maldivian counterpart in Kampala, discusses Indian troop withdrawal, following President Muizzu's request for their withdrawal by 15 March

The meeting between EAM S Jaishankar (pictured left) & his Maldivian counterpart Moosa Zameer (pictured right) took place on the sidelines of a ministerial meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in the Ugandan capital. (photo: @DrSJaishankar/X)
The meeting between EAM S Jaishankar (pictured left) & his Maldivian counterpart Moosa Zameer (pictured right) took place on the sidelines of a ministerial meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in the Ugandan capital. (photo: @DrSJaishankar/X)
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PTI

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Thursday, 17 January held a "frank conversation" with his Maldivian counterpart Moosa Zameer in Kampala, days after Maldives' President Mohamed Muizzu asked India to withdraw all the Indian military personnel from the island nation by 15 March.

Zameer said the ongoing "high-level discussions" on the withdrawal of Indian military personnel figured in his talks with Jaishankar, adding Malé is committed to further strengthen and expand bilateral cooperation.

The meeting between the two ministers took place on the sidelines of a ministerial meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in the Ugandan capital.

At a media briefing in New Delhi, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal said India remains committed to its development partnership with the Maldives and that both sides are engaged in talks to resolve the issue relating to the Indian troops.

"Met Maldives FM @MoosaZameer today in Kampala. A frank conversation on India-Maldives ties. Also discussed NAM related issues," Jaishankar said on X.

On his part, Zameer said: "We exchanged views on the ongoing high-level discussions on the withdrawal of Indian military personnel, as well as expediting the completion of ongoing development projects in the #Maldives, and cooperation within SAARC and NAM."

"We are committed to further strengthening and expanding our cooperation," he said on X.

On Sunday, Maldivian President Muizzu asked India to withdraw all Indian military personnel deployed in the island nation by 15 March even as the two sides held the first meeting of "High-Level Core Group" in Male that primarily focused on the contentious issue.

The next meeting of the "Core Group" is set to take place in New Delhi early next month.

In his weekly media briefing, spokesperson Jaiswal said India remains committed to take forward its development agenda with the Maldives including implementation of various welfare projects in the island nation.

"We remain committed to our projects and to take them forward. We have been an important development partner of the Maldives," he said while replying to a question.

"We remain committed to doing all things that we can do as a development partner of the Maldives," Jaiswal added.

On Malé insisting on withdrawal of Indian troops, he suggested that the matter is going to be deliberated upon at the next meeting of India-Maldives Core Group.

"Both sides held discussions on finding mutually workable solutions to enable continued operation of Indian aviation platforms that provide humanitarian and medvac (medical evacuation) services to the people of Maldives," Jaisawal said quoting from a press statement by the ministry following the January 14 meeting of the Core Group.


The India-Maldives ties came under some stress as Muizzu, widely seen as a pro-China leader, maintained after assuming charge as the president in November that he will keep his election promise of evicting Indian military personnel from his country.

The Maldives is one of India's key maritime neighbours in the Indian Ocean Region and the overall bilateral ties including in areas of defence and security witnessed an upward trajectory under the previous government in Male.

In May last year, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh visited the Maldives during which he handed over a fast patrol vessel and a landing craft to the island nation.

In August, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and then Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih kick-started the India-funded Greater Male Connectivity Project (GMCP), billed as the largest infrastructure initiative in the island nation.

Under the GMCP, a 6.74-km-long bridge and causeway link will be built to connect the capital city Male with adjoining islands of Villingli, Gulhifalhu and Thilafushi.

The Maldives is also one of the biggest beneficiaries of India's Neighbourhood First policy.

Asked about the case of eight jailed former Indian Navy personnel in Qatar, Jaiswal said a consular access was given to the Indian embassy in Doha recently.

"Our ambassador along with the embassy officials met the eight detained (Indians). The legal team is looking into the plea aspect," he said.

The Court of Appeal in Qatar on 28 December commuted the death sentence handed down to the Indians and sentenced them to prison for varying durations, weeks after their family members filed an appeal against the earlier order by another court.

The Indians have been given 60 days' time to appeal against the varying prison terms.

"It will be decided by the legal team," Jaiswal said on the possible appeal.

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Published: 19 Jan 2024, 8:32 AM
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