President Muizzu acknowledges contribution of Indian helicopters and aircraft for medical evacuation of Maldivian citizens
India and the Maldives have agreed to discuss workable solutions for continued cooperation in using aircraft for medical evacuation and counter drug trafficking purposes, sources in New Delhi said on Saturday. 
Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu brought up the presence of Indian military personnel in Maldives to operate these aircraft when India's Minister of Earth Sciences Minister Kiren Rijiju called on him in Male. 
According to the Maldives President's Office, at the meeting, President Muizzu formally requested the Government of India to withdraw its military personnel from the Maldives. "The President noted that at the Presidential Election held in September, the Maldivian people had given him a strong mandate to make the request to India and expressed the hope that India will honour the democratic will of the people of the Maldives," the President's Office said in a press release. 
Sources in New Delhi, meanwhile, said President Muizzu acknowledged the contribution of these Indian helicopters and aircraft for medical evacuation of Maldivian citizens. "They are also central to the confidence that international tourists have staying on remote islands. He appreciated their role in monitoring and combating drug trafficking," one of the sources said.
It was agreed that the two Governments would discuss workable solutions for continued cooperation through the use of these platforms as this serves the interests of the people of Maldives, the source added.
Rijiju, who represented India at the inaugural ceremony of the new Maldives President, conveyed his best wishes to the President, representing the sentiments of the Government and the people of India. The Minister expressed his aspiration to foster a constructive relationship with the Maldives, acknowledging the presence of a vibrant Indian community residing in the Maldives.
Speaking at the weekly media briefing in New Delhi on October 19, 2023, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said India looked forward to constructively engaging with the incoming administration and discussing ways to enhance the relationship further. 
India's cooperation with Maldives is based on jointly addressing shared challenges and priorities. "The assistance and platforms that we have provided have contributed significantly in areas like people's welfare, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and combating illegal maritime activities," MEA Spokesperson Bagchi said.
According to information shared by Bagchi, over the last five years, more than 500 medical evacuations have been carried out by Indian personnel, saving 523 Maldivian lives. Of these, 131 evacuations were carried out this year, another 140 last year, and a further 109 in 2021. 
Similarly, during the last five years, more than 450 multifaceted missions have been carried out to safeguard the maritime security of Maldives. Of these, 122 missions were carried out last year, while the 152 and 124 missions were undertaken in 2021 and 2020 respectively. 
"India has also been the first responder for Maldives in any disaster scenario, including most recently during COVID," MEA Spokesperson Bagchi added.