Indian naval ship visits the Maldives

Indian Naval Ship Khanjar berthed in Male’ harbour on 16 September 2013, on deployment for joint exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and anti-piracy patrols with the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF).

INS Khanjar will undertake a Joint EEZ patrol in the Maldivian EEZ from September 18-21. Officers from the MNDF Coast Guard will embark the ship for this mission.

According to a statement from the Indian High Commission in Male’, several professional activities were conducted between the ship and MNDF Coast Guard personnel. These included refresher training capsules on Force protection, Search and Rescue, High risk boarding and other naval exercises for MNDF personnel.

“INS Khanjar is the fourth of the famed ‘Khukri’ class Missile Corvettes of the Indian Navy. The ship is christened after the traditional weapon ‘Khanjar’- a curved double edged dagger, epitomising the fighting spirit of the ship. Designed for surface-to-surface warfare, teh ship packs a considerable punch compared to her size. The weapon outfit includes surface to surface missiles, close range anti-air missiles, medium calibre gun and close-in weapon systems. She also has the capability to carry an Alouette helicopter for air operations. INS Khanjar is part of the elite Eastern Fleet of the Indian Navy and is commanded by Commander BS Bains,” stated the High Commission.

“The ship’s deployment to Male underscores the strong bilateral ties between India and Maldives and is expected to go a long way in strengthening maritime security cooperation between the two countries,” the statement added.


Maldives, India and Sri Lanka agree to increased maritime security collaboration

The second Trilateral Cooperation on Maritime Security meeting between India, the Maldives and Sri Lanka concluded this week with an agreement for greater collaboration and information sharing among their respective naval forces in the Indian Ocean.

The Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) has said that an agreement had been reached during the meeting for Indian and Sri Lankan naval forces to assist the Maldives with search and rescue efforts, as well as dealing with issues such as marine oil pollution.

The meeting, which concluded Tuesday (July 9) was attended by Maldives Defence Minister Mohamed Nazim, Sri Lanka’s Minister of Defence and Urban Development Gotabaya Rajapaksa and India’s National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon.

The first Trilateral Cooperation on Maritime Security meeting was held in the Maldives in 2011, although the MNDF has said that technical meetings have since been held in all three countries.


Vice President Waheed Deen meets Nigerian counterpart during INIA stopover

Vice President Mohamed Waheed Deen met with his Nigerian counterpart Namadi Sambo at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) on Thursday (May 30).

During a stopover en route to China, Sambo held discussions with Deen on issues including extending cooperation in addressing concerns over piracy, security and terrorism, according to the President’s Office website.

As part of wider talks on bilateral relations between the two countries, the two vice presidents also spoke on issues of tourism, agriculture and energy. Vice President Sambo departed for China the same day following the meeting.


Maldives included in United Nations’ US$2 million anti-piracy project

United Nations Trust Fund for the Fight against Piracy has approved a US$2 million package of projects for affected nations, including the Maldives.

The aim of the five projects, approved April 30, is to ensure ongoing piracy trials are conducted in a fair and efficient manner and that the human rights, health and safety of individuals suspected of piracy are protected. This includes facilitating the repatriation of detainees suspected of piracy from the Maldives to Somalia.

Other initiatives involve providing support to law enforcement authorities and prosecutors in “front-line States” to investigate illicit financial flows from piracy. Biometrics-based fishermen database systems will also be implemented to support monitoring and surveillance of fisheries resources, while also providing important information to counter-piracy forces. Projects have been approved for Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, the Seychelles, and the Maldives.

United Nations Assistant-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Tayé-Brook Zerihoun acknowledged the gains made in controlling piracy, but stressed that the international community “should not be under any illusion that piracy has been conclusively brought under control” during the announcement of the projects in New York.

“The dramatic decline in pirate attacks is clear evidence of years of hard work by United Nations Member States, international and regional organizations, and actors in the shipping industry,” said Zerihoun.

“The international community should continue to support the efforts of Somalia and States in the region to strengthen their maritime law enforcement capacities and their rule of law sector.

“With the Trust Fund’s resources largely spent, now is the time to replenish the Fund to bridge critical gaps in counter-piracy efforts,” he added.

The United Nations Trust Fund for the Fight against Piracy was established in 2010 and have received approximately US$17 million in contributions from member states and the maritime industry. The funds have been used for 31 projects, totalling approximately US$16 million, and “short-term needs related to unforeseen expenditures”.

The purpose of the trust fund is to “defray expenses” associated with prosecuting suspected pirates and undertaking other activities to fight piracy.

The trust fund’s Board is comprised of 10 voting member States – Germany, Italy, Kenya, Republic of Korea, Norway, Qatar, Seychelles, Somalia, Turkey, and the United Kingdom – and three non-voting entities, the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and the United Nations Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS).

Piracy threat

The Maldives is situated at a strategic intersection of sea trade routes, and a significant amount of global maritime traffic passes through or near the country’s northern atolls.

Due to increasing pirate attacks in the Indian Ocean and the frequent encounters with Somali castaways in Maldivian territory, maritime experts have speculated that the piracy threat is growing in Maldives.

“We are very concerned about piracy in the Maldives since we are located in the Indian Ocean, one of the major areas [at risk],” Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Ibrahim Muaz Ali told Minivan News today (May 6).

“The Maldives has already raised these issues with international organisations and international media,” he added.

Ali confirmed that although recent joint military exercises with neighboring SAARC countries, such as India and Pakistan, were not solely for anti-piracy purposes, that issue was included.

“We are seeking protection [from pirate attacks] from SAARC countries,” said Ali.

In an effort to address the growing threat of piracy and rising concerns over the security within Maldivian territorial waters and the wider Indian Ocean, the Government proposed an anti-Piracy bill in January 2013.

The stated purpose of the bill is to establish a legal framework to deal with piracy within the territorial waters of the Maldives amidst concerns at the growing risk of maritime crime in the Indian Ocean over the last few years.

The bill also seeks to outline legal procedures to deal with individuals suspected of committing acts of piracy within Maldivian territorial waters, give that such procedures do not presently exist in the country’s legal system.

Pirate attacks

The Maldives experienced the first confirmed case of piracy within its waters back in March 2012, when a Bolivian-flagged vessel headed for Iran was hijacked by Somali pirates. The vessel was released a few days later.

The Maldives’ government first expressed concern over the growing piracy threat in 2010 after small vessels containing Somali nationals began washing up on local islands.

In March 2012, 40 Somali castaways in the custody of Maldives authorities refused to return home despite arrangements that were made for their safe repatriation.

“Some of the Somali refugees are not in the Maldives. I can’t say exactly how many have been repatriated. The process has been ongoing. The Home Ministry and so many others are involved,” explained Ali.

In January 2012, an American luxury passenger line en route to the Seychelles was stranded in the Maldivian waters due to an alleged “piracy risk”, while the passengers departed to the Seychelles through airline flights.


Maldives Customs Service installs system to monitor Exclusive Economic Zone

The Maldives Customs Service (MCS) has today installed an Automated Identification System (AIS) it claims will help better determine the movement and location of vessels entering the country.

In a statement issued today, customs officials said that the AIS would assist the department in monitoring the Maldives’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) zone more effectively.

According to the statement, the new device is able to determine the speed, location and the movement of vessels in Maldivian waters.


US challenges Maldives’ prosecution of terror suspects, among concerns over rising radicalisation

The US State Department has reported there were no successful prosecutions of suspected terror suspects during 2011 in the Maldives, and raised wider concerns about the potential radicalisation of young people from the country in foreign madrassas.

According to the US government’s recently published “Country Reports on Terrorism 2011”, the Maldives was viewed to have “severely limited” legislation to prosecute alleged cases of terrorism and extremism in the country’s courts.

While the Maldives government said it was presently looking to address several security and terrorist threats, such as piracy and organised crime, through existing legislation and proposed legal amendments, it moved to deny any truth in claims Maldivian citizens were being radicalised at Pakistan-based madrassas.

President’s Office spokesperson Abbas Adil Riza said that the government was presently collecting information in regards to the issue of radicalisation in the country.  He stressed active steps had been taken against permitting clearance for local students to study in any madrassas in the country.

“No Maldivians right now are being trained in Pakistani madrassas.  Steps are being taken to ensure this with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and authorities in Pakistan,” he said. “We will not issue visas to go there in this regard. So to say that such a threat exists is definitely not true.”

Key threats

In addressing other key threats to the nation, Abbas claimed that the incursion of pirates from Somalia into the Maldives’ territories on two reported occasions, as well as human trafficking resulting from organised crime were seen as “particular dangers”.

“The threat we currently face from pirates and traffickers is being dealt with via existing legislation, as well as some new amendments that have presently been proposed in parliament,” he said.

Abbas said the new government had not opted to make any drastic changes to existing counter-terror policy enacted under former President Mohamed Nasheed’s administration.

“We will not be making a 180 degree reversal on the last government’s stance,” he said, adding that a focus on further legislation would be sought under President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan.

US State Department view

According to the US State Department, the American government was partnering with Maldivian counterparts in attempts to “strengthen” law enforcement in the Indian Ocean nation.  The US was also said to back establishing community outreach schemes based around countering terrorist ideologies, as the state department stressed alleged radicalism remained a concern in the Maldives.

“The government believes that hundreds of young Maldivians attended madrassas in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, and was concerned that these students were bringing home radical ideology,” stated the report. Two Maldivians, in separate instances in March and October, were arrested in Sri Lanka on charges linked to terrorism. Their cases were pending at year’s end.”

One of the suspects, Mohamed Ameen, was released from police custody in May ths year by the criminal court after it did not issue an extension to his detention period.

Local media reported that the suspect was released by the court “on the condition that he not get involved in any further terrorist activities, and not leave the country.”

Beyond legislation, the report also pointed to the signing of an agreement signed with Malaysia-based IT group Nexbis to install a new border control system with an integrated database in an effort to try and combat human trafficking into the country.

“However, alleged corruption concerns and subsequent legal proceedings made it unclear when the system would be installed,” the report stated.

The Maldives was last month included on the US State Department’s Tier Two Watch List for Human Trafficking for a third year in a row.

The US State Department added that the Maldives, during 2011, had become a partner in its Antiterrorism Assistance programme focused on training in areas such as “counterterrorism leadership”, as well as regional cooperation with other authorities.

The report also noted the Maldives inclusion in the regional Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering, where it had been submitting annual updates on its work.

“Maldives underwent a mutual evaluation conducted by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the final evaluation report was adopted by the members in July 2011.  Maldivian law does not criminalize money laundering apart from a small provision in the Drugs Act. The Maldives Financial Intelligence Unit took the lead in drafting an Anti-Money Laundering and Combating Financing of Terrorism act with assistance from the IMF,” the report stated.

“The draft bill was sent to the Attorney General’s Office in July 2010 and was sent back to the Maldives Police Services and the prosecutor general for review and comment. In July 2011, Maldives Financial Transactions Reporting came into effect, which aims to safeguard Maldives financial and payment systems from being used to promote acts of terrorism and money laundering, and to protect financial services and products from being used to conceal the proceeds of crime.”

According to the state department, the UN 1267/1989 and 1988 consolidated lists detailing individuals or entities with associations to the Taliban and al-Qa’ida had also been sent to the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The MMA was said to have instructed banks creditors to then take acton on the matter with a set time frame, according to the report.

As part of the US State Department’s findings during 2011, recognition was also given to efforts made by the Maldives government to pursue intiatives and mechanisms designed to counter “violent extremism”.

“The Ministry of Islamic Affairs implemented a programme designed to mobilise religious and social leaders to work against all forms of violence in society, including religious extremism that leads to violence,” stated the report. “The Ministry conducted over 15 seminars and workshops for religious leaders, educators, and local government officials. Several of these workshops included participants from across the country.

“Ideological problems”

Islamic Affairs Minister Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed said in June that he was seeking to counter the “ideological problems” of extremism in the country.

Shaheem claimed that the threat of home-grown terrorism was a key issue needing to be addressed in the Maldives – something he alleged the previous government under former President Nasheed had neglected to assist with through funding.

“The previous government did not give us the budget we needed to run programmes to address these issues,” he said at the time. “There are problems here with extremism and terrorism, these are idealogical problems that need to be targeted through religious awareness campaigns.”

Shaheem himself previously served under the Nasheed government as Islamic State Minister before resigning in December 2010 over differences of opinion with the administration over issues such as claims it was strengthening links with Israel.

However, the now opposition Maldvian Democratic Party (MDP) – to which Nasheed remains the current presidential candidate – was sceptical of the commitments of religious figures attached to the Waheed administration. It contends the government came to power on February 7 in a “coup d’etat”.

Party Spokesperson and MP Hamid Abdul Ghafoor claimed that with the MDP failing to recognise the legitimacy of the current government, the same was true for ministerial appointments like Sheikh Shaheem.

Ghafoor also alleged that issues such as Islamic fundamentalism were a well established tool used during the 30 year rule of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom to pit different factions in the country against each other, something he believed was once again happening with the present government.

“I see Shaheem as a just a little cog inserted into the larger machine of Gayoom’s political control,” he said.


Defence Minister warns of piracy threat in Indian Ocean

Minister of Defence Mohamed Nazim has spoken to Indian media about the growing threat Somali Piracy poses to the Indian Ocean region.

Speaking to the India-based Daily News and Analysis publication, Nazim warned that “these threats have now come to our close proximity… We live by selling dreams of tranquility and even a small incident in our territory could have devastating implications for the region.”

The comments were made the same week that the the first ever tri-lateral naval exercises between Sri Lanka, India, and the Maldives were held. Nazim told the paper that he believed this united approach was the best way to combat the problem.

The Maldives experienced the first confirmed case of piracy within its waters last month when a Bolivian-flagged vessel headed for Iran was hijacked by Somali pirates before being released a few days later.

Nazim also praised the Indian Military for its assistance in equipping and training the Maldivian National Defence Force (MNDF). The Defence Minister visited India earlier this month to discuss potential opportunities for additional training of Maldivian troops in India.


Maldives outlines maritime threats, solutions: DefenceWeb

The Maldives is facing a growing number of maritime threats, including piracy, illegal fishing, human-trafficking, drug-smuggling and gun-running. However, the archipelago is developing its ability to protect against any threat that may reach its shores, DefenceWeb reports.

To this end it has established joint maritime patrols with India and is setting up a coastal radar system and information-sharing network.

In a paper released during the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) in Cape Town last week, the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) detailed the threats, challenges and responses to the issue of maritime security.  Due to its location in the Indian Ocean, the 1 190-island nation functions as a natural barrier between maritime traffic transiting through strategic gateways into the Indian Ocean such as the Malacca Straits, Strait of Hormuz and Bab-el Mandeb.

As a result, the Maldives faces a number of transnational criminal and piracy threats, including human-trafficking, drug-smuggling and gun-running.

Although drug-smuggling routes have been known to cross the Maldives for many years, extensive crimes mentioned above are not exclusively known to target the nation. However, the Maldives has experienced an influx of skiffs floating into its waters since December 2009. Today there are 40 suspected Somali nationals in the Maldives waiting to be extradited back, according to the IONS document.

The Maldives is also feeling the shift in piracy operations within its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). In May and November of 2010 two merchant ships encountered pirates within the Maldivian EEZ – one was attacked and the other chased by pirates.

Recently, on March 26, 2012, a Bolivian flagged bulk-carrier, the MV Eglantine was hijacked inside the EEZ. To date no Maldivian vessels has been approached suspiciously nor been affected by piracy directly.
Apart from security threats, the Maldives also faces pollution and illegal fishing problems, which is of concern as it dependent on its natural beauty and resources to generate economic growth.

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Hijacked Bolivian ship released

The Bolivian goverment yesterday announced that the vessel MV Elgantine, seized off Hoarafushi island last week by Somali pirates – the first such incident to happen in Maldivian waters – had been released.

The Bolivian International Ship Registry announced that the ship was now continuing on to Iran with its shipment of Brazilian sugar.

After becoming aware of the hijacking, Maldivian and Indian armed forces shadowed the vessel but are not thought to have boarded.

The Maldives agreed to coordinate its anti-piracy activites with Sri Lank last year. The Maldives’ government first expressed concern over the growing piracy threat in 2010 after small vessels containing Somali nationals began washing up on local islands.

The country is situated at a strategic intersection of sea trade routes, and a significant amount of global maritime traffic passes through or near the country’s northern atolls.