Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Indian Navy affirms strong defence ties with Maldives, despite withdrawal request


New Delhi: The Indian Navy has “very strong” cooperation with the Maldivian defence forces and the engagement continues, Navy Chief Admiral R Hari Kumar said on Friday against the backdrop of the new president of the Maldives seeking withdrawal of Indian military personnel from the island nation.

The Maldives is one of India’s key maritime neighbours in the Indian Ocean Region and the overall bilateral ties including in areas of defence and security witnessed an upward trajectory under the previous government in Male.

Mohamed Muizzu, who is widely seen as a pro-China leader, was sworn in as the new Maldivian president on November 17, and a day later, he called for withdrawal of Indian military personnel from the Maldives.

Asked at a press conference about Muizzu’s remarks, Admiral Kumar only talked about the robust defence cooperation between the two countries.

“We have very very strong cooperation with Maldives. We have some assets deployed there. We have been assisting them in many ways. Over the last five years, we have helped them in over 500 medical evacuations, saving lives,” he said.

“We are helping them keep their maritime areas under surveillance….. We have very close cooperation in terms of training and other activities,” he said.

“Whether we will scale down the number of personnel, that will be a decision by the two governments and whatever instructions are given, we will follow them,” Admiral Kumar said.

Muizzu has maintained that he will keep his election promise of evicting Indian military personnel from his country.

Union Minister Kiren Rijiju attend Muizzu’s oath-taking ceremony and called on him.

“At the meeting, President Muizzu had formally requested the Government of India to withdraw its military personnel from the Maldives,” a statement by the Maldivian president’s office had said.

“The President noted that at the presidential election held in September, the Maldivian people had given him a strong mandate to make the request to India and expressed the hope that India will honour the democratic will of the people of the Maldives,” it added.

India had given Dornier aircraft and some other platforms to the Maldives.

In May, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh visited the Maldives during which he handed over a fast patrol vessel and a landing craft to the island nation.

In August last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and then Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih kick-started the India-funded Greater Male connectivity project, billed as the largest infrastructure initiative in the island nation.

Under the Greater Male Connectivity Project (GMCP) project, a 6.74 km long bridge and causeway link will be built to connect the capital city Male with adjoining islands of Villingli, Gulhifalhu and Thilafushi.

The Maldives is also one of the biggest beneficiaries of India’s Neighbourhood First policy and Shahid lauded development.


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