Two military helicopters provided by India are no longer needed because the Maldives has built up enough resources of its own, the country’s ambassador said Friday.
Ahmed Mohamed told Reuters that the helicopters, mainly used for medical evacuations, were not needed because of improved local facilities.
“They were very useful in the past but with the development of adequate infrastructure, facilities and resources we are now in a position to handle medical evacuations on our own,” he was quoted as saying.
The first Indian helicopter was gifted in 2010 during ex-president Mohamed Nasheed’s administration and the second was gifted last April. They were operated by 50 Indian military personnel stationed in Addu Gan and Laamu Kadhdhoo.
Earlier a government official said the second helicopter in Laamu was significant as China had proposed a maritime port in the atoll.
“Even Addu is significant as it is located at Equatorial Channel and close to Diego Garcia. It seems Malé wants to rid both these strategic locations of any Indian footprint,” the unnamed official said.
Indian concerns about a Chinese port followed an interview by the Maldives ambassador to China Mohamed Faisal in which he admitted that China had expressed interest in a port, but that a plan had not been finalized.
Amid a strain in Indo-Maldives relations, the government of President Abdulla Yameen in early June asked India to take back the helicopters by the end of that month.
Reuters reported that India is yet to take back the helicopters.
“We are still there, our two helicopters and the men,” an Indian navy spokesman said, adding that the foreign ministry was handling the expired visa matter for the Indian personnel.
Despite the worsening relations, India and the Maldives are still conducting joint patrols in the country’s exclusive economic zone every month, according to the Maldivian ambassador.