India Dismisses Maldivian Defence Minister's Claim of Unauthorized Helicopter Operation

India Defense

India Dismisses Maldivian Defence Minister's Claim of Unauthorized Helicopter Operation


India has denied Maldivian Defence Minister Ghassan Maumoon's claim that Indian helicopter pilots conducted an unauthorized operation in 2019, stating all activities were properly authorized. This clarification follows India's recent withdrawal of military personnel from the Maldives amid strained relations.

India has rejected a claim made by Maldivian Defence Minister Ghassan Maumoon that Indian military helicopter pilots conducted an unauthorized operation in the Maldives in 2019. The Indian High Commission in the Maldives stated that all Indian aviation activities in the Maldives have been conducted according to agreed procedures and with proper authorization.

This response came shortly after India withdrew 76 military personnel from the Maldives, following a demand from Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu. Relations between the two countries have been strained since Muizzu, known for his pro-China stance, took office in November last year. President Muizzu had set a deadline of May 10 for the withdrawal of Indian troops.

At a press conference, Defence Minister Ghassan alleged that one of the two helicopters operated by Indian military personnel landed in Thimarafushi without permission in October 2019. He stated that this incident was reviewed by the Parliament's Committee on National Security Services, where he was a lawmaker at the time.

However, the Indian High Commission refuted this allegation, explaining that the emergency landing at Thimarafushi on October 9, 2019, was due to an unforeseen exigency. They emphasized that the sortie was conducted with the approval of the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) and necessary on-ground clearances from Air Traffic Control were obtained to ensure the safety of the crew and the aircraft.

Local media reports have suggested that the MNDF disclosed on May 11 that Indian military personnel had conducted a helicopter trip without informing the Maldivian military during former President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih's administration.

Despite these tensions, Defence Minister Ghassan admitted during the press conference that the Maldives military still lacks pilots capable of operating the three aircraft donated by India. Indian military personnel had been stationed in the Maldives to operate these aircraft, which include two helicopters and a Dornier aircraft primarily used for medical evacuations.

The last group of Indian military personnel left the Maldives by May 10, in accordance with the deadline agreed upon in February between the two countries. The Maldives remains a key maritime neighbor for India in the Indian Ocean Region and holds significant importance in India's regional initiatives such as 'Security and Growth for All in the Region' (SAGAR) and the 'Neighbourhood First Policy'.

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