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India’s helicopters being flown with Maldives defence personnel onboard: Report

Several weeks following the withdrawal of Indian military personnel from the Maldives, the two helicopters donated by New Delhi to the island nation are now being consistently utilized, with an MNDF soldier accompanying each operation.

Edited By: Ajeet Kumar @Ajeet1994 Male Published on: June 04, 2024 18:34 IST
Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu
Image Source : AP Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu

Weeks after India withdrew its military personnel from the Maldives, the two helicopters gifted by New Delhi to the island nation are operated regularly with an MNDF soldier onboard, a Maldivian news portal reported on Tuesday. Adhadhu.com quoted an unnamed airport official who said that a soldier of the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) “is always onboard when the helicopters are flown.”

President Mohamed Muizzu, a pro-China leader, rode to power in September last year with a pledge to remove all Indian military personnel from his country. The last of the 88-odd personnel were repatriated by the set deadline of May 10.

Two helicopters and a Dornier aircraft donated by India have been used for hundreds of medical evacuations and humanitarian missions in the Maldives. According to the agreement with the Maldives, when the military personnel were sent back, India replaced them with civilians to keep the operations of the three aviation platforms going.

“Indian military helicopters in the Maldives are regularly operated despite the removal of uniformed Indian military personnel based in the country. The helicopters are flown at least twice a week. The helicopters are flown to regulate maintenance of the aircraft,” an airport worker told Adhadhu.com on the condition of anonymity.

“When contacted about flights of the Indian military aircraft in the Maldives, the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) media official said he would check and get back to Adhadhu but did not respond later,” it said. The development comes weeks after Maldivian Defence Minister Ghassan Maumoon had alleged that Indian military helicopter pilots stationed in the Maldives carried out an unauthorised operation in 2019; a charge dismissed by the Indian High Commission in the Maldives.

India has made it clear that the Indian aviation platforms in the Maldives have always operated according to the “agreed procedures and with due authorisation.” Incidentally, soon after the May 10 deadline set for the withdrawal of Indian soldiers, Maumoon admitted that the Maldives military still does not have pilots capable of operating three aircraft donated by India.

However, he reiterated Muizzu’s pledge at the Shangri-La Dialogue 2024 in Singapore last week when he said that the government of the Maldives is against the permanent presence of foreign military troops in the country despite establishing defence relations with each other.

“The government's policies are to enhance the capacity of the country's own defence forces and ensure internationally accepted standards in the region,” the state-run PSM news channel quoted him as saying.

The Adhadhu.com news portal also reported that the Maldives government has introduced an air ambulance service and, in addition, a military Air Corp was set up that began surveillance of Maldivian territorial waters with three drones brought from Turkiye. “Despite the new services making India’s helicopters and Dornier redundant, the government agreed to keep the aircraft in the Maldives. Civilian personnel from India were also brought to operate the aircraft,” it said.

(With inputs from agency)

Also Read: 'Thanks to Maldives, Israelis can now explore beauty of Lakshadweep': Israel after Muizzu's decision

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