India has taken two important decisions for stepping up its defense cooperation with the Maldives, a country situated in the Indian Ocean. This is significant when considering China’s recently-enlarged strategic footprint in the area.
To begin with, the Indian government has decided to station a Defense Attaché at Male, the capital of Maldives. Additionally, India has also decided to position its Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) Dhruv an additional period of two years beyond April 2012. What is more, the helicopter, which was recently brought back to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) workshop in Bangalore for an overhaul, has been upgraded with night flying capabilities.
Defence Minister AK Antony conveyed the Indian government’s decisions to his Maldivian counterpart in Male on Sunday, according to the Ministry of Defense. During his delegation-level talks with Maldives Defense Minister Col. (Retired) Mohamed Nazim, Antony said India would soon be deploying a team of its flying instructors to train the Maldives’ air wing personnel.
India also agreed to a request from the Maldives government to deploy an additional ALH in Maldives’ Northern Province for medical evacuation purposes. The two ministers also decided to revamp their joint fight against terrorists and malevolent non-state actors.
Furthermore, the Indian Navy is continuing its monthly surveillance of the Maldives’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in response to piracy and illegal activities occurring close to Maldivian territory. New Delhi’s surveillance assistance is also supporting the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) in its handling of coastal security and piracy.
The Maldives is of enormous strategic importance to India as the small SAARC nation is a pivot point for India to ensure the maritime security of the Indian Ocean. Over the past few years, India has stepped up its strategic cooperation with Male as Beijing has increased its presence in the Maldives as well as in the Indian Ocean, despite China not being a traditional power in the region.
Thus, NEw Delhi must have been relieved to hear Nazim say, “Governments will change both in the Maldives and India. Yet, the enduring friendship that exists between the two countries will only improve and expand.”