The Maldives government on Friday said that India has agreed to withdraw its military personnel from the island nation by May 10 and replace the aviation management staff with civilians.

The decision was announced after the second meeting of the India-Maldives High-Level Core Group in New Delhi on Friday.

The core group was formed to negotiate Malé’s demand that New Delhi remove its military presence from the island nation.

“Both sides agreed that the Government of India will replace the military personnel in one of the three aviation platform by 10 March 2024, and will complete replacing military personnel in the other two platforms by 10 May 2024,” said the Maldives Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a press release.

However, the statement issued by India’s External Affairs Ministry had no mention of this agreement.

New Delhi stated that both sides “agreed on a set of mutually workable solutions to enable continued operation of Indian aviation platforms that provide humanitarian and medvac [Medical Evacuation] services to the people of Maldives”.

Last month, Malé had asked New Delhi to withdraw its soldiers from the island nation by March 15.

India is the only foreign power with a military presence in the Maldives. Around 70 Indian defence personnel maintain radar stations and surveillance aircraft in the archipelago. Indian warships also help patrol the Maldives’ exclusive economic zone. This collaboration is of strategic importance to New Delhi amid its geopolitical competition with China in the Indian Ocean region.

The two sides will hold another meeting in the last week of February in Malé. Its first meeting was held on January 14 at the foreign ministry headquarters in the Maldivian capital and was attended by Indian High Commissioner Munu Mahawar.

For Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu, who is seen as being pro-China, removing the Indian military from his country was a key election promise. After preliminary negotiations in October, he asked India to withdraw its troops from the country. In December, he claimed that India had agreed to withdraw its soldiers.

Muizzu made his first official state visit to China earlier in January amid a diplomatic spat with India. This was a digression from the norm, as India is typically the first country that new Maldivian presidents visit after assuming power. Muizzu had first requested a visit to New Delhi but was turned down, according to reports.