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Did Indian Navy helicopter land in Maldives without approval in 2019? India issues clarification

The Indian side, in a statement released on Tuesday, noted that a Maldivian government official had incorrectly mentioned the landing of a helicopter in Thimarafushi (Thaa Atoll) without the authorization of the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF).

Written By: Ajeet Kumar @Ajeet1994 New Delhi Updated on: May 14, 2024 19:09 IST
Indian Helicopter in Maldives
Image Source : FILE Indian Helicopter in Maldives

The Indian High Commission has issued a clarification over allegations levelled by a Maldivian government official over an alleged "unauthorised landing by Indian helicopter in October 2019". The Indian side, in a statement released on Tuesday, noted that a Maldivian government official had incorrectly mentioned the landing of a helicopter in Thimarafushi (Thaa Atoll) without the authorization of the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF).

Addressing a press conference in Male on Saturday, Defence Minister Ghassan said he knew of one of the aviation platforms undertaking an unauthorised sortie. He narrated an incident where one of the two helicopters operated by Indian military personnel in the Maldives landed in Thimarafushi, allegedly without permission – a case, which he said, was reviewed by the Parliament’s Committee on National Security Services (241 Committee), when he was a lawmaker.

However, the Indian mission dismissed the allegation.

India rejects Maldives govt allegations 

"In response to a media query on remarks made at the Government of Maldives' Press Conference on 11 May 2024, wherein an alleged unauthorized landing by the Indian ALH platform was mentioned: Indian aviation platforms in the Maldives have always operated as per agreed procedures and with due authorization from MNDF," read the statement released by the High Commission of India in Maldives.

The Indian government stressed that the incident that the Maldivian government referred to occurred on October 9, 2019, when a helicopter took off for a sortie. It maintained that the helicopter had made an emergency landing at Thimarafushi due to an unforeseen exigency. It said that the helicopter had landed after taking necessary on-ground approvals from the ATC to ensure the safety and security of the platform and crew.

What happened in October 2019?

According to a report published by The Maldives Journal on November 14, 2021, the Maldivian Coast Guard commandant Colonel Mohamed Saleem had sent an email to the commander of the Indian naval contingent stationed in the Maldives alleging, "an instance of the IN-706, one of the two helicopters operated by the Indian military in the Maldives, landed in Thimarafushi without the authorisation of the MNDF". The report claimed that the email had been sent by Col Saleem on 17 October 2019.

As per the email, Lt Commander Vinod; who was the senior pilot on that flight; had allegedly admitted to it. However, there was no mention of any confirmation or a letter that could prove that the Indian side had admitted the claims. As per the letter, the Maldivian airport officials had complained about the alleged unauthorized landing to Coast Guard Aviation and to the MNDF.

At that time, Col Saleem wrote that such actions posed a threat to national security, and could also result in political unrest. Further, the Colonel requested that the Indian side follow the set protocols to prevent recurrence in the future.  However, the clarification issued by the Indian government today rejected the theory and underscored that the helicopter had landed after following necessary protocols.  

Notably, the latest development came as the two nations have been reeling under diplomatic stress following the appointment of pro-Chinese President Mohamed Muizzu in September last year. Since then, the relations have nosedived significantly after back-to-back allegations levelled against New Delhi.

Also Read:  Maldivian pilots not capable of operating aviation platforms gifted by India, says Defence Minister

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