Maldives govt welcomes Indian military backing

Maldives do not need military backing from any country beyond India, says Defense Minister Mariya Ahmed Didi.

Speaking to 'The Hindu' during her current official visit to India, Minister Mariya noted that India has always been aiding the Maldives as their closest neighbor and ally.

Mariya said the Maldives sees no reason for military ties beyond India.

“So far as we are concerned we are very comfortable in having India as our very close friend because they always came to our rescue in 1988 [to thwart an attempted coup] or the tsunami or the recent water crisis. Our closest neighbor has been India and they have always been there to help so there is absolutely no need to have any other sort of military cooperation with any country as such,” she asserted.

Noting that the country wants the Indian Ocean, where the archipelago as well as India is situated, to be a safe and protected area, the country does not wish for the Indian Ocean to become colonized, said Mariya.

The Minister also shed light on the military helicopters gifted to the Maldives by India, confirming that the helicopter operations have been resumed after a hiatus. She commented on the usefulness of the choppers and stated that she does not understand why the previous government chose to ground the helicopters during their reign.

Maldives under former president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom had returned one of the choppers in May last year and had asked India to remove the second by the end of June.

However, after extensive discussions between both sides, the then Maldives government had extended the deadline to remove the helicopters till December.

However, the new government had said the helicopters would remain which was confirmed by the country's new president Ibrahim Mohamed Solih last month.

There had been reports that the then government had been concerned by the presence of Indian navy staff who are stationed in the Maldives for the maintenance of the choppers.

India had reportedly stationed six pilots and over a dozen ground personnel to operate the choppers and also help the Maldivian National Defence Force (MNDF).

However, president Solih said downplayed such concerns insisting that the helicopters are flown under the strict instruction of the relevant Maldivian authorities.

"Though the helicopters are flown by Indian pilots, we tell them when and where to go," Solih stressed.

He also said the helicopters since they were brought in had saved over 100 Maldivian lives adding that the cost of operating the choppers are entirely borne by the Indian government.