Indian military copters in Maldives used for EEZ surveillance and training

Indian military copters in Maldives used for EEZ surveillance and training  

by: Hani Kamal El-Din

New Delhi: The handful of Indian military personnel in the Maldives are stationed for training of local armed forces and joint EEZ surveillance, contrary to claims made by the newly sworn in administration in Male that the Indian military is violating sovereignty of the island nation.

Indian military presence in the atoll state includes two Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters operating in Male, and a Dornier aircraft given to the Maldives National Defence Force (MDNF), with the condition that while it will operate under the command and control of MNDF, the running costs will be borne by India, sources said.

On Saturday, India told the Maldives that it will find a “workable solution” to its President Mohamed Muizzu’s formal request to withdraw Indian “military personnel” from the southern Indian Ocean country.

Muizzu formally made the request when he met India’s minister of earth sciences Kiren Rijiju at the President’s Office on Saturday.

As Muizzu took oath on Friday, he reiterated that he was firmly committed to ensuring that the Maldives remains “free” of any “foreign military presence” to preserve its independence and sovereignty.

Muizzu, however, acknowledged the contribution of the Indian helicopters and aircraft in medical evacuation of Maldivian citizens. He also appreciated their role in monitoring and combating drug trafficking.

The Dornier has been assisting in the joint surveillance activities by India and the Maldives of the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Indian Ocean Region atoll state, according to persons familiar with the issue.

The larger view is that India provides the largest number of training opportunities for MNDF, meeting around 70% of their defence training requirements, sources said. India has trained over 1,500 MNDF personnel over the past 10 years. In February 2021, India had extended a $50 million line of credit to the Maldives for defence projects. It also signed a deal with Male to construct and maintain a naval facility.

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