Chief of Defence Force, Major General Abdulla Shamaal has denied the presence of armed foreign military personnel in the Maldives.
Allegations that armed military personnel from India are active in the Maldives have been directed at the government and the defence forces. Denying the allegations, the Chief of Defence Force assured that Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) would uphold the constitution and protect the country’s independence. Although the defence force receives technical assistance from foreign military personnel, the country would not allow the presence of armed foregn military personnel in the Maldives, said Shamaal.
“There is no [foreign] military presence in the Maldives, there are no armed military members. However, we continue to receive support from technicians in a humanitarian capacity in providing humanitarian services,” said Major General Shamaal.
He further noted that since the Indian Ocean is an important region, MNDF receives assistance from the militaries of countries such as the US, Saudi Arabia, China, Pakistan and the United Kingdom in increasing the defence forces’ capacity in protecting the air and sea space. However, MNDF would not allow for the independence of Maldives to be threatened, he added.
Speaking on the helicopters ‘gifted’ to the Maldives by India, Shamaal said the choppers are not operated by Maldivian pilots due to lack of trained personnel. While training is ongoing, one reason for the lack of trained personnel willing to work in the field is due to not being able to offer a similar salary and remunerations as that of commercial pilots, said Shamaal. The fact that Indian military personnel currently operate the helicopters does not take away the ‘control’ of Maldives with regard to the aircraft, said Shamaal.