India and Maldives have hit a rough patch after the island nation was engulfed in a political crisis which resulted in a state of emergency in the country and also because of its growing bonhomie with another superpower in the Indian Ocean region – China. And this time around, Male has asked New Delhi to take back one of the two naval helicopters that were gifted to the Indian Ocean archipelago. The official sources told the Times of India that the discussions are carried out with the Maldives government to figure out the cause of the whole turn of events.
However, a top source at the Male government told TOI that it wanted it did not want “Dhruv” Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) but a Dornier maritime surveillance aircraft. India had gifted a “Dhruv” to the Maldives, which is operational from Addu Atoll. This new development will only result in ruining the already strained relations that India and Maldives share today. It also brings to notice the ties between the two countries in an aspect of defence and security cooperation, that too, at a time when China is carrying out the construction of the infrastructural project at strategic locations in the Maldives.
In another concerning development, Pakistan army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa visited Male on Sunday. He became the first foreign dignitary to visit the island country after it ended the State of Emergency. To this, the India government source said that they are closely watching the situation. The sources at the Maldives government said, justifying the move, the Letter of Exchange for the helicopter had expired, which is renewed every two years. This was the first time that the Maldives has decided not to do so.
There are speculations that Male is going to return another ALH also that is currently operating from Laamu Atoll, but the sources at the government have denied it. Laamu is a sensitive location in the southern Maldives as Beijing is mulling its options of constructing a port.
With this increasing friendship between Beijing and Male, India has its eyes on China, which has invested a great deal in Maldives, in addition to giving them military aid and “capacity-building” for the past several years, whereas, India had gifted Male two aircrafts along with six pilots and a dozen of ground personnel to operate those aircrafts.