An agreement will be signed with Pakistan next July for a US$10 million credit line facility to strengthen the Maldivian military, Defence Minister Adam Shareef Umar revealed Friday evening.
Speaking to reporters at the international airport upon his return from a four-day official visit to Pakistan, Shareef said the loan will be used to purchase military equipment and two aircraft.
“Our aim is to obtain two aircraft to be used in training and surveillance with the help of the credit facility before the end of the year,” he said.
Shareef added that the funds will also be used to buy a cargo vessel this year.
Branding the visit a success, Shareef said Pakistan also pledged expert assistance both for developing the recently-established Counter-Terrorism Centre and training military officers.
Prime Minister Nawal Shareef is meanwhile due to visit the Maldives in July.
During his official visit, Shareef had met with Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain, Defence Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif, Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif, and Advisor to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz.
According to AFP, President Mamnoon said several countries have expressed interest in purchasing Pakistani Super Mushak and JF-17 Thunder aircraft.
On Wednesday, Shareef visited the Pakistan Ordnance Factories and witnessed the manufacturing of arms and ammunition. The Maldivian delegation was reportedly told that POF could meet the requirements of Maldives in terms of conventional arms and ammunition.
Meanwhile, following the signing of an Indo-Maldives defence action plan in April, India gifted a second helicopter to the Maldivian military for use in the newly-opened Iskandhar military base in Laamu atoll.
Neither country has disclosed details of the defence agreement, but Indian media reports suggested it is aimed at countering growing Chinese influence in the Maldives.
The Asian Age reported that an internal defence think tank report of the Indian government had raised fears of “China’s recent strategic manoeuvres in and around the Indian Ocean Region.”
In July last year, opposition MP Eva Abdulla requested summoning the then-defence minister to confirm whether a Chinese Yuan class 335 submarine entered Maldivian territorial waters en route to Pakistan.
India Today reported at the time that “China’s deadliest attack submarine” crossed the Arabian Sea and entered Karachi port on May 22.
“Beijing’s first-ever deployment of a submarine to Pakistan signals a new cat-and-mouse game in the region,” India Today observed.
According to the magazine, Indian navy chief Admiral RK Dhowan told reporters in New Delhi on May 28 that India was “minutely” monitoring Chinese naval activity in the Indian Ocean and “signalled the start of a new great game over the world’s most important water body.”
China’s rising presence in the Indian Ocean region has stoked concerns in New Delhi that the rival Asian power is creating a ‘string of pearls’ to encircle India, including Chinese investments in ports and other key projects in Sri Lanka and Pakistan.