The Indian High Commission in Malé has issued a press release seeking to clarify what it argues are “baseless claims” in media reports regarding bilateral cooperation on defence.
“The High Commission of India notes with concern recent media reports about India-Maldives defence and security co-operation and other issues containing blatantly false information,” read this morning’s statement.
It follows a number of stories in Maldivian media which suggested India had refused to train Maldivians to pilot the helicopters, donated to the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) in 2010 and 2013 .
It was also reported that the Indian pilots who currently man the Kurangi helicopter (meaning frigate-bird in Dhivehi) had conducted unauthorised flights.
Kurangi is currently stationed at Gan International Airport in the southernmost Seenu Atoll. The aircraft is intended for use for search and rescue operations and surveillance within the Maldives exclusive economic zone.
“The Indian crew members, who provide technical support, are under the operational control of MNDF and can fly Kurangi only on authorisation by MNDF,” said the Indian High Commission.
“Hence, the accusations made in media reports that the crew of Kurangi flew across some areas of Maldives without orders are totally baseless and completely false.”
Maldivian news outlets had attempted to link alleged requests for more Indian pilots – for the second helicopter, currently still in India – to accusations of an attempted coup by former defence minister Mohamed Nazim.
The High Commission said today that the second helicopter – accepted by Nazim during an official visit in December 2013 – has been painted in Maldivian colours and is awaiting the establishment of necessary infrastructure.
In the months prior to his dismissal and subsequent arrest, Nazim had announced his intention to convert Kadhdhoo Airport in Laamu Atoll to a military facility.
Suggestions that Maldivians had not been given the opportunity to operate the helicopter in Gan were also rejected by Indian officials today, as were claims that no Maldivian officers were being trained.
“It has been India’s constant endeavour to ensure that Maldives is self-sufficient in operating these assets gifted by India and towards this end several training programs are offered for Maldivian defence personnel in India.”
Today’s statement explained that one flight engineer and one technician from the MNDF had completed ALH training in November 2014, while two more slots had been offered for 2015.
“In the preceding year, around 150 MNDF officers were trained in various defence institutions and colleges in India. Capacity building has been a key area of co-operation in India-Maldives bilateral relationship,” read the statement.
MNDF spokesmen were not responding to calls at the time of publication.
Today’s statement marks the second time in recent months that the High Commission has moved to correct reports regarding its affairs, with a press release in November denying suggestions made in the People’s Majlis that India had discussed joining China’s Maritime Silk Road project.
The ruling Progressive Part of Maldives subsequently blamed the opposition and associated media outlets for the confusion over the silk route issue.
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