MALE, Maldives: Voicing a strong opposition to the presence of Indian military personnel in the Maldives, the Maldivian Opposition has demanded their expulsion from the Country and also slammed President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s government for entering into ‘secret agreements’ with India over the issue.
In an event held in Capital Male on September 30, the Maldives Opposition Parties including the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and the People’s National Congress (PNC) initiated a petition calling for the expulsion of all Indian military personnel currently stationed in the Maldives.
The petition stated that President Solih’s government had entered into secret agreements with India that allows the Maldivian territories to be used by the Indian military.
Stating that such agreements were made in contravention of the Constitution, the petition called on the government of India to withdraw all Indian military personnel and equipment from the Maldives.
Currently, Maldivian territories host an Indian military presence: Addu City, Kadhdhoo (Laamu), and Hanimaadhoo (H. Dh).
The military personnel stationed in Kadhdhoo and Addu City had been stationed to accompany the two Indian military helicopters that had been deployed in the Maldives. The personnel in Hanimaadhoo accompany the Dornier aircraft operated by the Indian military.
The Indian military helicopters have been the subject of controversy and concern over the past decade.
The first of the two helicopters, currently being operated in Addu, were was brought to the Maldives in 2010. India had claimed that Maldivian service people would be trained to operate the helicopters. The second helicopter was brought in 2015. As no Maldivian serviceperson had been trained to operate the helicopters in the years that followed, the Yameen administration had called on the Indian government to recall them.
The agreement for the second helicopter expired in June 2018, prompting the Yameen administration to declare their intention to not renew either agreement and to call upon the Indian government to take back both helicopters and all Indian military personnel stationed in the Maldives.
However, India had refused to honour the Maldivian government’s request and had maintained both helicopters and all military personnel well past the end of President Yameen Abdul Gayyoom’s term.
According to military agreements that had leaked to the Maldivian press, all personnel involved in the operation of the helicopter based in Addu City would be under the command of Indian Coast Guard Contigent Commander, who will in turn be answerable to the High Commissioner of India in the Maldives.
India has repeatedly characterised the helicopter in Addu as a “gift” from India to the Maldives and had claimed that the helicopter was under the command of the Maldives National Defence Force. The Maldivian Chief of Defence Force Major General Abdulla Shamal had also repeated this point.
Several grassroots movements have emerged over the past few years to protest against the growing Indian presence in the Maldives, as well as the unbalanced foreign policy that President Solih’s government has been pursuing with regards to the aspiring superpower to the north.
The “IndiaOut” movement has been the most prominent and well-established among these grassroots movements.
With the launching of the petition, the opposition Coalition hope to add their support to such causes.