India steps up defence ties with Maldives

India steps up defence ties with Maldives

With China making inroads to expand its footprints on Indian Ocean, India on Sunday stepped up its defence cooperation with Maldives with the hope of not loosing its upper-hand in the strategically important island nation.

On his second visit to Maldives in three years, Defence Minister A K Antony promised to retain an Indian helicopter on the island for two more years, and hinted at providing a second chopper. He also announced stationing Air Force and Navy teams for training the Maldivian National Defence Force and laid the foundation stone of MNDF building, which will be constructed with Indian assistance. 

The defence minister also inaugurated a 25-bed military hospital ‘Senahiya’ in Male, where two medical officers and four paramedical staff from the Indian Armed Forces Medical Services will be stationed in setting up the services. All these are meant to strengthen India’s positions in the 1,190 island archipelago that astride major sea lanes on the Indian Ocean and can act as a platform to watch crucial maritime activities in India’s neighbourhood.

New Delhi has now decided to station a defence attaché in Male too. Besides, the government has also agreed to retain the advanced light weight helicopter Dhruv, handed over to Maldives in 2010, for a two more years beyond April 2012.

The helicopter had been upgraded with night flying capabilities. To a request from Maldivian defence minister Col (retd) Mohamed Nazim for an additional advanced light helicopter for deployment in the Northern Province for medical evacuation purposes, Antony said that he would try to fulfil this request at the earliest.