UTF is an Indian military base: Ex-pres

Former President of the Maldives and opposition leader Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayyoom has expressed concern about the military agreements between Maldives and India, stating that the Uthuru Thila Falhu (UTF) is an Indian military base.

Speaking at an event held in R. Meedhoo under the 'India Out' movement, Yameen said Indian military personnel had stationed themselves at five different locations across the Maldives, including UTF. He said that the Maldivian military has no control over UTF. He said that the base was first developed under government financing but was later handed over to India under the guise of 'developing' the base. However, he claimed that UTF was handed over to India under a secret agreement.

'Believe me when I say this. The Maldivian military, the Maldivian state, has no control over this place [UTF]. This base is under the direct control of India,' he said.

Yameen said the UTF agreement states that construction, management, and operational responsibilities at UTF all lie with the Indian military. The Maldives government does not have the power to question the number of Indian military personnel using UTF, the duration of their stay, or their activities at the base, said the former President.

President Yameen stated that the agreement between India and Maldives military could not be disclosed to a third party. This is the reason that the deal is not disclosed to the Parliament, he said. HE reiterated that the UTF base was a threat and that it was an Indian military base.

'This agreement clearly states that it cannot be disclosed to a third party,' Yameen said.

Speaking further, Yameen said the UTF agreement is unconstitutional and strips off the country's citizens' power. He added that the deal is detrimental to the Maldives in more ways than one.

'It was proposed to establish an Airwing at UTF for Maldives military. The airwing acts as a landing and take-off port for airforce jets and other military aircraft. The seaport is also developed simultaneously with the air wing. All the radars and navigation, and electronic equipment for this region are being established at this port. The Maldivian military nor the people require this level of capacity. We do not want a base of this level outside of Male'. That level of threat from Maldivian citizens does not exist,' he said.

Touching on the five areas where the Indian military is allegedly stationed, President Yameen said the Maldivian army does not have control over these locations. He specifically noted that many Indian officers were stationed at HDh. Hanimaadhoo, and that the Maldivian state has no control over Hanimaadhoo Airport.