India rejects “baseless” media claims regarding defence cooperation

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.

Related to this story

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MNDF gifted helicopter as ties with India continue to grow

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.


Teen seriously injured in boat propeller accident

An 18 year-old was serious injured trying to disentangle a fishing line from a dhoni propeller and is being transferred to Sri Lanka for further medical treatment, reports local media.

Nauf Ibrahim suffered serious injuries from the ‘Mashhooru’ boat propeller while trying to remove an ensnared fishing line. His family members told local media that he dove into the sea to disentangle the line and was hit in the head by the propeller, which resulted in a skull fracture and internal bleeding.

The accident occurred yesterday (April 23) while the dhoni was fishing near Laamu Atoll.

Ibrahim first received medical treatment Laamu Atoll regional hospital, however he was transferred to the intensive care unit of Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) in Male’ via the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) ‘Kurangi’ helicopter.

Ibrahim’s family claims he is not receiving sufficient medical treatment at IGMH and will be transferred to Sri Lanka today, courtesy of Meedhoo MP Ahmed Siyam Mohamed.

Ibrahim is from Meedhoo Island in Dhaalu Atoll.


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.