“The US has not and is not considering a permanent military presence in the Maldives. We continue to share a close bilateral defence relationship on areas of mutual interest,” Pentagon spokesperson Lt Col Jeffery Pool has told the Press Trust of India.
The comments come after President Abdulla Yameen was reported to have told Sri Lankan media that he had opted against a status of forces agreement (SOFA) with the US.
“There have been discussions before… we are not going to pursue it,” Yameen was quoted as telling media in Colombo.
Minister at the President’s Office Mohamed Hussain Shareef has told media the agreement was rejected for fear of upsetting both Sri Lanka and India.
“We have told them that we can’t do it because both India and Sri Lanka are also not happy with it,” Shareef was quoted as saying.
US officials have repeatedly denied any intentions to establish a base in the Maldives – long associated with military strategists’ ‘String of Pearls’ theory for Chinese military expansion in the Indian Ocean.
The initial document – leaked in April last year – proposed a ten-year agreement which would grant the US unspecified access to facilities within Maldivian territory, with the right to “undertake new construction works and make alterations and improvements.”
The US would also be granted access to and use of “aerial ports, sea ports and agreed facilities for transit, support and related activities; bunkering of ships, refueling of aircraft, maintenance of vessels, aircraft, vehicles and equipment, accommodation of personnel, communications, ship visits, training, exercises, humanitarian activities,”read the leaked draft.
US officials argued that it had around one hundred similar agreements with friendly nations in support of ongoing operation.