The Government of India has gifted the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) an advanced light helicopter, with local media media declaring a “new chapter” in Indo-Maldivian defence ties.
The Hindu reported Nazim as stating that the gift was “paving the way for further strengthening of ties between both countries.”
The helicopter was officially handed over by Indian Southern Naval Command officer Vice Admiral Satish Soni to the MNDF’s Brigadier General Ali Zuhair – the second such award after a similar gift in 2010.
The Maldives’ Minister of Defence Mohamed Nazim – currently on an official visit to the Maldives northern neighbour – officially unveiled the colours of the aircraft. The helicopter will reportedly be manned by an Indian flight crew for search and rescue operations, and surveillance within the Maldives EEZ.
The Times of India reported Satish as praising the Maldives contribution to security in the Indian Ocean region, citing the MNDF’s frequent assistance in anti-piracy operations.
Nazim’s trip precedes that of newly elected President Abdulla Yameen, who is scheduled to visit India on his first official state visit on December 22.
Yameen’s attempts to enhance bilateral ties after a fraught period in the pair’s diplomatic history were recently lauded by former President – Yameen’s half-brother and party leader – Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
Indian media has suggested that Yameen’s visit will see the re-opening of a standby credit facility which had seemingly been frozen during the relationship’s nadir in 2012.
The most recent installment of India’s pledged budget support stalled just stays before a concerted – and often xenophobic – campaign against the development of Malé’s international airport culminated in the eviction of Indian company GMR.
The following month, the Indian High Commission in Malé publicly aired a list of consular grievances including persistent discrimination against Indian expatriate workers, a failure to reciprocate generous visa processes for Indians in the the Maldives, and threats made against diplomatic personnel.
Largesse from other regional powers has also come in the form of Chinese development aid, with 50 million yuan (US$ 8.2 million) promised for development projects within weeks of Yameen’s November 16 election victory.
The MNDF’s official website has reported that the award of the helicopter was part of its roadmap for the first 100 days of the Yameen administration. Other aims include the establishment of a justice system within the – recently fratricidal – organisation, and the conducting of international training with its Indian counterparts.
Meeting with Indian Defence Minister A.K. Anthony last week, Nazim discussed increasing cooperation between the armed forces of both countries and advancing medical facilities and expertise in the MNDF through training medical specialists.
Anthony announced that all MNDF personnel will now be eligible for treatment in Armed Forces medical institutions in India for major surgeries and for treatment of major and serious illnesses.