India and Maldives Defence Cooperation

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    India and Maldives today agreed on a series of measures to step up defence cooperation between the two countries. The decisions were taken at the back-to-back meetings that the Defence Minister Mr AK Antony had with the top leadership of Maldives including the President Mohammed Nasheed and the Defence Minister Mr. Ameen Faisal.

    Later addressing a joint press conference with Mr Faisal, Mr Antony said ‘the defence and security of both our countries are intertwined’. He said his visit is a reiteration of the existing robust relations that already exist between the two countries. Mr Antony said Maldives and India are ‘good friends and equal partners’ in this relationship. He said India will extend all assistance to Maldives based on the latter’s requests. He said both countries face myriad security challenges especially from the sea and it would be New Delhi’s efforts to help its neighbor in whichever way it can.

    Replying to a question if his visit was driven by consideration of any third country, Mr Antony said ‘ I didn’t come here to discuss about other countries’ and said ‘don’t go by rumours’. He said the purpose of his visit was not to enter into any agreements but to expand our cooperation within the existing framework which is a robust one.

    Speaking on the occasion, Mr Faisal said relationship between India and Maldives is not based on any ‘self interest or undue influence’. He said the people of Maldives are indeed grateful to India for its ‘unconditional and selfless assistance in most trying times’.

    Mr Antony is leading a high level delegation comprising the Defence Secretary Shri Pradeep Kumar, DG Armed Forces Medical Services Lt Gen NK Parmar, DG Coast Guard Vice Admiral Anil Chopra and Deputy Chief of Navy Staff Vice Admiral DK Joshi.

    Shortly after his arrival in Male’, Mr Antony called on President Mohammed Nasheed. This was followed by wide ranging discussions held with Vice President Mohammed Waheed Hassan Manik, the Special Envoy to the President Mr Ibrahim Hussain Zaki, the Minister of Foreign Affairs dr Mohammed Shaheed, the Defence Minister Mr Ameen Faisal and the Minister for Home Affairs Mohammed Shihab. Mr Antony also inspected a guard of honour at the Maldives National Defence Force Headquarters.

    This visit of Mr Antony to the Maldives was long due and is aimed at consolidating the long standing robust defence and security ties between the two Defence forces. It would also serve to strengthen the ongoing bilateral relations between our two friendly countries, which go back to at least two-and-a-half millennia. India, has always considered its relations with Maldives as very special. Our bilateral defence relations are based on trust and confidence that we have been able to build through several decades of hard work. Recognising the common security interests and maritime challenges faced by our two Indian Ocean nations, India has always come forward to share its experience, expertise and resources with Maldives in the spirit of friendship and brotherhood.

    At discussions held at the Integrated Headquarters of the MNDF, the emerging security challenges in the region and the need to strengthen joint and collective mechanisms to mutually counter them were highlighted. The MNDF also expressed its concerns over the crucial tasks of safeguarding and protecting the vast Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the Maldives, while expressing its need to develop and enhance maritime surveillance and aerial mobility capabilities.

    In this context, the Indian Defence Minister reiterated Indian Government’s continued support to assist the Maldives National Defence Force in their efforts to build capacity and enhance capability. He expressed confidence that the two defence forces would continue to work closely together to ensure a peaceful maritime environment in the seas around us as also to establish joint mechanisms to effectively challenge the common scourge of terrorism, drug trafficking and piracy. Recognizing the MNDF’s need for a quick first response capability in events of calamities – both natural and man made as also medical evacuations and Search and Rescue (SAR) requirements, the GoI would be transferring to the Maldives a “DHRUV” helicopter, manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, Bangalore, for use by the MNDF. The Govt of India would also be assisting the MNDF in setting up and equipping a 25 bed hospital at Male as also provide training to MNDF Doctors and paramedics.

    The scope of the ongoing joint MNDF Marines/Army and the Coast Guard exercises would be enhanced and Hydrographic survey and other joint events including surveillance and co-ordinated patrolling by IN and MNDF CG ships would continue apace. MNDF CG ship Huravee which was transferred to MNDF in 2006, would be provided a three month long refit by the GoI at Naval Dockyard Vizag. Besides this, the vast training interaction existing is also poised to grow further. Both sides also agreed to work together in preparing Maldives claim on extended continental shelf delineation to be submitted to the UN.

    The discussions were held in the spirit of friendship and mutual respect and were very fruitful. The Indian Defence Minister would depart the Maldives on the 22nd August 2009 on conclusion of the two day official visit.

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