Indian Ocean is India’s soft underbelly, says Nasheed

The Indian Ocean is India’s soft underbelly, President Mohamed Nasheed has told Indian media.

Sify News reported that the Maldivian President sought to allay concerns here that Maldives could be used as a route to attack India although he acknowledged that some nationals of his country were getting terror training in Pakistan and some other countries.

“Terrorism issue is apolitical. We have to get a good grip on it,” Nasheed said in an interview while talking about the menace which is a cause of concern for the region and beyond.

“Security issues in Indian Ocean have lately been getting more and more serious…I mean we see the Mumbai attack also as an Indian ocean issue,” he said.

Noting that “India’s soft belly is through Indian Ocean” and no government in Delhi would be comfortable with it being exposed, he said Maldives and India are undertaking coordinated patrolling of the maritime areas.

“We have an understanding with India in patrolling… it is happening,” he said, adding India had also lent a helicopter for aerial surveillance of the Indian Ocean region.

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Mystery around Somalian survivors deepens as health improves

A nurse attending to the Somalian man who was first believed to be dead, and was left inside the anchor locker of a small boat after he was found adrift with five other men, has said he is ”progressing” despite his “serious condition”.

The nurse, on condition of anonymity, told Minivan News that the man was brought to Kulhudhufushi Regional Hospital along with the five men yesterday.

”The man’s condition is very serious,” she said. ”He is admitted in the Intensive Care Unit.”

‘The man has injuries to his back bone and shoulder and is very weak, she said.

The other five men’s condition is now stable, she added.

One of the five Somalian man was due to be buried on the assumption he was dead, after rescuers observed he did not move his body or show any sign of being alive.

Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said that the body was handled to police the next day morning, and claimed it was not the responsibility of the police to declare the death of the person.

Daily newspaper Haveeru reported that the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) confirmed the death of the man after he was checked by a doctor at  Haadhaalu Makunudhu Health Centre.

However, MNDF Major Abdul Raheem denied the claims in Haveeru, claiming they were “misleading”.

Abdul said that MNDF did not ask the doctor to check the body and did not declare the death of the body either.

”When Haveeru contacted us, we told that there was one dead body because when MNDF arrived to the island, the doctor at the health centre told us that five men were admitted to the hospital and one dead man was left in the boat in which they came,” said Abdul. ”We cannot ask the doctor, after he says a man is dead, how he knew that he was dead.”

Abdul said that later MNDF understood that the doctor also did not check the body.

Head of Makunudhu Health Centre Ibrahim Shareef confirmed the doctor did not check the body.

”Police and MNDF also did not,” said Shareef, ”and the doctor was busy attending the five admitted men,”

Shareef said the five men first treated at the health centre were now in a stable condition, leaving the only one man’s condition serious.

An official at Makunudhu said that “most” of the islanders believed the six men were pirates.

He said that there was one “very strong” man, who was really fit compared to other five men, ”and seems to be well trained for such incidents.”

”He was the only man that could stand up, while all others did not have any power,” he said. ”He seems to be the leader of them.”

He said that the alleged leader of the crowd answered even when other member of the crew were questioned.

”When we gave them food, he took it all and divided it among everyone, and he told everyone not to eat too much,” he said. ”Maybe because he understands that they have been starving for a long time and it is not good to eat too much.”

MNDF Major Abdul Raheem said that there was no sign that they were pirates.

”We checked their boat and the nearby uninhabited island also,” he said, ”they had nothing with them.”

He said that according to how the wind was blowing during this monsoon, anybody traveling from Somalia who lost control would potentially be carried towards Maldivian waters.

”But we cannot estimate how long it will take, because the wind blows at different speeds at different times,” he said.

”Somalians use those type of boats both for fishing and piracy,” he added.


India donates helicopter to MNDF

The Indian government has donated a helicopter to the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF), reports Haveeru.

The helicopter will be officially handed to the MNDF at a ceremony on Wednesday.

Indian Defence Minister AK Anthony visited the Maldives in August, and after his visit the Indian High Commission said the Indian government would provide a helicopter and assistance to establish a 25-bed military hospital in Malé.

The helicopter has been re-painted with a Maldivian flag and a sign reading MNDF.


Erroneous reports of pirates operating in Maldivian waters: Foreign Ministry

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has claimed that while recent reports of pirates operating in Maldivian waters are unsubstantiated, the government is concerned about pirates operating off the Somali coast west of the Maldives.

Foreign Minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed said the government is keeping in touch “with the Indians and the Americans to enhance maritime security.”

“For now, Somali pirates are operating as far as the Seychelles, but not in the Maldives.”

Dr Shaheed said the government was taking “pre-emptive and preventive measures” to ensure the safety of the country.

State Minister of Defence Muiz Adnan said although there have not been recent reports of pirates operating in Maldivian waters, “this is a concern for everybody. A lot of pirates operate out of Somali waters.”

Adnan said the coast guard conducts regular sea and air patrols and also regularly schedules joint patrols with the Indian army, although “not only concerning piracy.”

He said if any pirate vessels are seen in Maldivian waters, “we will take the necessary measures to apprehend them.”

President of the Fishermen’s Union Ibrahim Manik said he had heard no reports of fishermen sighting any pirate vessels in Maldivian waters, but said that sometimes they saw foreign vessels illegally doing long-line fishing.

Manik said if fishermen saw any illegal vessels, they would “definitely cooperate with the government. We are fighting against this,” he said, but added that “we are not very concerned. We are stronger than that.”