NEW DELHI: In an indication of a slight upswing in bilateral military ties after a distinct chill, India has dispatched a warship to the Maldives to undertake joint surveillance and patrol of the archipelago’s sprawling Exclusive Economic Zone.
Two officers and eight sailors from the Indian Navy’s elite marine commandoes wing are also currently at Maafilhafushi in the Maldives, which is 145 km north of Male, to train its personnel in diving and tactics under the second such asymmetric warfare training exercise called “Ekatha” from April 28 to May 15.
Offshore patrol vessel INS Sumedha will undertake an operational turn-around at Male on May 11-12, which will involve training and embarkation of some personnel from the Maldives National Defence Forces (MNDF). The warship will then undertake the joint EEZ surveillance from May 12 to 15.
Bilateral ties between the two countries had soured after Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen on February 5 declared an emergency in the archipelago following an order by the country’s Supreme Court to release a group of opposition leaders convicted in widely criticized trials.
The Maldives had subsequently declined India’s invitation to participate in its eight-day mega naval conclave called “Milan” at the Andaman and Nicobar Islands from March 6 to 13. Maldives had later also asked the Indian government to take back one of its two Dhruv advanced light helicopters (ALHs) gifted to the archipelago, as was first reported by TOI in April.
With an eye firmly on China, India has provided military aid, training, “capacity-building” and EEZ surveillance to the Maldives over the last several years. Apart from gifting a fast-attack craft, India has stationed six pilots and over a dozen ground personnel in the archipelago to operate the ALHs and help the MNDF.
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