Minister of Defence and National Security Mohamed Nazim has returned from his five day official visit to India bearing gifts and reassurances of better defense cooperation and hope for improved bilateral relations.
A major highlight of the trip was India’s gift to Maldives military, a locally manufactured ‘Dhruv’ Advanced Lightweight Helicopter (ALH). The Helicopter the second India has gifted – will reach Maldives in two months.
India also assured the delivery of a landing craft within this period – promised during Nazim’s previous visit to India as President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s Defence minister. During that visit, nine months ago, India promised seven new radar systems, in addition to three radar systems India had already gifted to the Maldives.
Nazim also addressed specific issues of concern that had emerged during the previous administration’s period of weakened ties with India.
The shortage of construction material imported from India following a special quota for Maldives being revoked in February 2013, and the difficulties in acquiring medical Visa for Maldivians traveling to India were discussed.
Both issues will be discussed further during President Yameen’s official visit to India early next year.
Nazim’s visit – from 11-15 December – was prompted by an invitation from his counterpart AK Anthony. During the visit, Nazim met many senior government officials, amongst them Minister of Home Affairs Sushilkumar Shinde, Minister of External Affairs Salman Khurshid, National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon, Chief of Army Staff General Bikram Singh, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral DK Joshi and Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne.
Nazim requested Indian assistance to acquire equipment and training for disaster management and fire and rescue services – a coast guard vessel for patrolling the Maldives’ EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) and an auxiliary vessel to improve logistical support across the country.
Training opportunities were also sought in other areas such as aviation security, pilot training, air traffic control training, MBBS and specialist medical training.
During the visit, the Maldives defense minister informed Indian officials of the progress of the Composite Training Center being constructed at Maafilaafushi (Lhaviyani Atoll) with Indian financial assistance. A ten-story building for the Coast Guard and the Ministry of Defense and National Security also is all set to be built at the current Coast Guard Building’s location with Indian grant aid.
Apart from improving the military, Nazim’s main focus during the visit was on health security, especially regarding the development of MNDF’s ‘Senahiya’ military hospital – officially inaugurated by Indian Defense minister in September 2012.
Nazim sought Indian assistance in getting medical equipment such as CT scan and MRI machines for the hospital. India also agreed to deputise Indian Armed Forces medical specialists to Senahiya and other regions of Maldives in a near future.
Training of MNDF medical specialists was also discussed, while the Indian defense minister announced the opportunity for MNDF personnel to be treated for major surgeries and serious illnesses at India’s armed forces medical institutions