A government official on Monday claimed that the agreement between the Maldives and India on the two helicopters provided by the latter did not specify that the aircrafts had been “gifted” to the Maldives.
India had presented the first naval helicopter in 2010 during former President Mohamed Nasheed’s government, and the second in April 2011. The first chopper is based in Addu Atoll’s Gan while the other is operated from the hangar developed by the Indian government in Laamu Atoll’s Kahdhoo.
The Maldivian government, which recently decided to return the first helicopter to India over certain unresolved concerns, had been referring to the helicopters as gifts from the South Asian neighbour.
However, a government official on Monday stated that the helicopters were being operated by the Indian military under a friendly agreement between the two countries.
“They weren’t gifts from India to the Maldives. None of the agreements pertaining to the two helicopters contain any clauses that infer that they had been gifted,” the official claimed.
The helicopters are mainly used to carry patients in medical emergencies from the atolls to the state hospital in capital Male.
According to a government official, the reason for returning the helicopter based in Gan was due to the exclusion of the local military in their operations. Under the original agreement between India and the Maldives, the Indian military would handle operations until Maldivian soldiers could be properly trained. However, no steps have yet been taken to train any officers of Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) to operate the helicopters.
The government source had said that the Maldives had proposed solutions to India, mainly the inclusion of local military or transferring the helicopter in Gan to Kahdhoo which is a special wing of MNDF being developed as a military airbase. However the official had said that New Delhi had not responded or resolved the issues within the given time period.
Thus the Maldives is considering against renewing the expired Letter of Exchange agreement for the Gan helicopter, which is the contract under which Indian soldiers are stationed in the Maldives for helicopter operations.
Moreover a government source had also later announced that India had agreed to take back the first helicopter and provide a Dornier maritime surveillance aircraft instead.
However an Indian government source told Indian media Monday that the delay in dispatching the surveillance aircraft to the Maldives was caused over Male prolonging a decision regarding the Letter of Exchange agreement.