The requirement for the Dornier maritime surveillance aircraft was raised by the then Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen during a visit to India in 2016.
India has provided a Dornier aircraft to the Maldives to help the island nation enhance surveillance over its exclusive economic zone as well as to keep an eye on sea-borne terrorists, government sources said on Tuesday. The aircraft will be operated by the Maldives National Defence Force (MDNF). The Dornier and its running costs will be borne by India, they said.
The requirement for the Dornier maritime surveillance aircraft was raised by the then Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen during a visit to India in 2016. Seven Maldivian military personnel including pilots, air observers and engineers are being trained by the Indian Navy to operate the aircraft, the sources said.
“The aircraft will also be used in operations against drug trafficking and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. India has been regularly sharing information with the Maldives on movement of drug traffickers,” said a source.
The sources said the aircraft will assist in ongoing joint surveillance by India and Maldives over the exclusive economic zone of the island nation. “In light of the Mahibadhoo and Laamu attacks by suspected terrorists, the Dornier aircraft will also be useful in the counter-terrorism sphere. The isolated and dispersed nature of islands and resorts can be safeguarded only by a technologically capable fixed wing aircraft,” said the source.
In mid-April, five speedboats and two dinghies at the harbour of Mahibadhoo island in the Maldives were set ablaze by suspected terrorists. “As per Govt-to-Govt Agreement & discussions started in 2016,the Dornier arrives! It will engage in humanitarian relief efforts & joint-EEZ surveillance under command & control of #MNDF; It proudly dons #MNDF colours & crest,and will involve Maldivian pilots in its operations,” the Indian High Commission in Male tweeted.
Ties between India and the Maldives were back on track after Ibrahim Mohamed Solih became president of the country in November 2018. The relations between two countries deteriorated during Yameen’s tenure as he was seen as close to Beijing. The ties came under severe strain after Yameen imposed emergency in the Maldives on February 5, 2018.
India had criticised his decision and asked his government to restore the credibility of the electoral and political process by releasing political prisoners. The emergency lasted 45 days. Solih became president after he defeated Yameen in the presidential polls.