Maldives has asked India to withdraw its military helicopters and personnel posted in the island country following the expiry of an agreement in June between the two countries, Reuters reported.
According to the Maldives’ Ambassador in India, Ahmed Mohamed, the two military helicopters provided by India were mainly used for medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) operations but were no longer required as the islands had built up enough resources of its own.
“They were very useful in the past but with the development of adequate infrastructure, facilities and resources we are now in a position to handle medical evacuations on our own,” he said.
The two Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH) – built by Indian state-owned aircraft manufacturer, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) – was gifted by New Delhi to the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) in 2012-13 for coastal surveillance, reconnaissance, logistics, and search-and-rescue missions. The helicopters were operated from the archipelago’s Laamu and Addu atolls by six Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guard (ICG) pilots.
Maldives is also reluctant to renew the visas of around 50 Indian military personnel stationed in the island country, including pilots and maintenance crew supporting the operation of the helicopters.
This is the latest snub by the President Abdulla Yameen’s government which is said to have backing from India’s regional rival, China.
India has opposed Yameen’s crackdown on political rivals and the imposition of an emergency this year and some of the president’s rivals have called on New Delhi for military intervention, creating worries in the Maldivian government, a Reuters report stated.
China has been developing airport, building roads and bridges in the Indian Ocean nation with an aim to upstage India’s position of main provider of military and civil supplies.