Maldives' Defence Minister: Indian Military Personnel Serving in the Country to Be 'Unarmed'
The ‘India Out’ campaign is an ongoing on and offline criticism of New Delhi’s policies in the region and its warm ties with the nation’s current leadership. The campaign was launched last year and is led by the main opposition group, which organised a massive demonstration against New Delhi in Malé last month.
Maldivian Defence Minister Mariya Ahmed Didi said on Wednesday that no Indian military personnel currently serving in the island nation will be allowed to carry weapons.
He also said they will operate under direct orders from his country's armed forces, or the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF).
“Despite how many doctors, pilots, mechanics, radiologists and gynecologists from the Indian military there are – they cannot even come here unless with express permission from the Maldivian government,” Didi said in an interview with Raajje TV.
The defence minister added that even the “duration of the stay” of the Indian military personnel in the Maldives
has to be “determined” by Malé.
Didi further claimed that even the Dornier plane donated by the Indian Navy to the MNDF couldn’t be operated without the express consent from the Maldivian government.
India donated a multi-purpose, light transport Dornier plane to the Maldives in September 2020, to help the MNDF carry out maritime surveillance and other activities in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) around the Indian Ocean nation.
The cost of operating the aircraft is being borne by New Delhi, as per terms of the inter-governmental agreement.
21 February 2021, 12:03 GMT
The significant remarks by the Maldivian Defence Minister come amid an ongoing, countrywide ‘India Out’ campaign, which is calling for an end to the Indian military presence in the strategically-located archipelago of over 1,000 islands.
Anand Kumar, an associate fellow at Indian Defence Ministry-linked think tank Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA), says that the defence minister’s latest remarks are meant to “clarify the escalating political situation" in the nation.
“The opposition parties are trying to rouse nationalist sentiments in the country by accusing India of imposing its military presence in the Maldives. However, New Delhi’s policy in the Maldives favours the developmental needs of the local population more than anything else,” said Kumar, who has reportedly authored a book on Maldives.
Indian military personnel are present at surveillance and training facilities in the north and southern tips of the island nation, according to the Maldives Journal.
During a visit to the country in June 2019, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi
inaugurated the ‘Coastal Surveillance Radar System’, in a boost to New Delhi’s maritime surveillance capacity in the Indian Ocean.
Opposition parties in the country last month merged to form the ‘Maldives Revolutionary Movement’, which comprises the main opposition Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) as well as other like-minded organisations.
Ending “foreign military presence” in the Maldives is the major demand of the newly-floated coalition.
During an anti-India demonstration organised by the opposition in the capital city of Malé on 22 October, many people described the country’s President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid, Speaker of the Parliament Mohamed Nasheed and Defence Minister Mariya as “traitors” for signing secretive deals with India, local media reported.
24 October 2021, 08:43 GMT
All of them hail from the Maldives Democratic Party (MDP), which has defended the Indian military presence on the islands.
In July, the Indian High Commissioner wrote to the government in Malé to ensure the safety of foreign diplomats after Indian officials posted to the country were targeted in online attacks by demonstrators.
In response, the MDP called upon the opposition protesters and individuals behind the campaign to “refrain from dragging in the Maldives’ diplomatic partners and allies into their own political petty vendettas.”