Maldives remains evasive on deployment of Indian maritime surveillance aircraft


Maldives remains evasive on deployment of Indian maritime surveillance aircraft

NEW DELHI: The Maldives remains evasive on the issue of proposed Letter of Exchange (LoE) essential for deployment of India's Dornier maritime surveillance aircraft in the archipelago. This had led to a protracted stand-off between the two countries over the issue of defence and security cooperation.

The government Thursday also hit out at the Abdulla Yameen government saying that the announcement of elections in the Maldives at a time when the democratic institutions including the Majlis and the judiciary were not allowed to function in a free and transparent manner was indeed a matter of concern.

 "It is important that a conducive atmosphere is created for holding free and fair elections in the Maldives," said MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar.

As first reported by TOI on June 5, Male had asked India to remove both its ALH Dhruv choppers from the Maldives by June 30. The machines though have stayed put in the Maldives with the government saying they are still engaging Male over the issue.

Maldives ambassador to India Ahmed Mohamed said again Thursday that the deadline for the removal of choppers was June 30.

Senior ministers in Male have publicly maintained that Maldives wants a Dornier aircraft from India. An agreement for Dornier could have spared India the loss of face in having to remove the choppers.

Official sources here said Thursday though that despite engagement over the issue there still was no clarity over Male's position on India's Dornier offer. The LoE for deployment of a Dornier in the archipelago has actually been pending with the Yameen government since 2016. India needs Male to approve the LoE to allow it to not just deploy Dornier but also naval staff whose presence is essential for maintenance of the aircraft.

The government said that it's in touch with Male on the issue of choppers and also the ban on fresh work permits for Indians. Despite the controller of immigration denying that Indians had been targeted, sources here said the "informal" ban remained in place.

The government also said that it had urged the Maldives to return to the path of democracy and ensure credible restoration of the political process and the rule of law, before the elections are conducted.

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