The Maldives has asked India to take back one of two naval helicopters gifted for use by the military to transport critical patients and conduct search and rescue operations.
Citing a top Maldivian government source, the Times of India reported Wednesday that Malé wants a Dornier maritime surveillance aircraft to replace the ‘Dhruv’ Advanced Light Helicopter, which presently operates out of the southernmost atoll.
The Maldives government chose not to renew the letter of exchange for the helicopter when it expired recently, TOI said, despite previous renewals every two years.
The newspaper suggested the development will further strain relations between India and Maldives after public spats over a 45-day state of emergency last month.
An Indian government source told the paper that New Delhi was “closely watching the situation” after Pakistan’s army chief visited the Maldives last week and discussed joint patrols of the country’s territorial waters.
The Maldives source meanwhile denied that the government is considering asking India to take back the other helicopter, which operates from a military airport in Laamu atoll.
Since India handed over the first helicopter (Kurangi) in 2010, the Maldivian military has used it for dozens of emergency evacuations.
On Sunday, the helicopter was used to transport a 30-year-old man with diving decompression sickness to Addu City from the Gahdhoo island in Gaaf Dhaal atoll. A patient was also airlifted to Malé from the island of Madifushi in Thaa atoll on the same day.
— MNDF (@MNDF_Official) March 31, 2018