The Maldives and India will sign an agreement today which allows the Indian military to use Uthuru Thila Falhu (UTF) to station Indian military personnel and to berth Indian naval vessels.
An official of the President’s Office told Dhiyares, the sister-newspaper of The Maldives Journal, on the condition of anonymity that this agreement will be signed during the visit of the Indian External Affairs Minister, Dr Subramaniam Jaishankar, to the Maldives.
The Maldives and India had previously discussed the project on a different occasion. Dhiyares has received word that Indian Foreign Secretary Vardhan Shringla, during his 8 November 2020 visit to the Maldives, held extensive discussions with the Maldivian government regarding the UTF project.
India is developing UTF as a dockyard. The Chief of the Defence Forces, Maj. Gen. Abdulla Shamal, claimed that the dockyard would be used for the repair and maintenance of MNDF’s vessels. According to reports, in exchange for the development of this dockyard, a permanent stationing of the Indian military had also been proposed and was on the table.
Reports say that in addition to Indian navy personnel, Indian naval vessels would also be permitted to berth there.
It must be noted that the Constitution prohibits the stationing of any foreign military presence in the Maldives without the approval of the Majlis.
India had proposed similar designs for UTF to the Yameen administration, but their requests had been denied.
Maj. Gen. Shamal had given the public assurances that no Indian military base would be permitted by the government. It is worth noting that as of this writing, there are several Indian military personnel present in the Maldives; the MNDF have adamantly refused to disclose their number.