The Maldives National Defence Force were unable to answer direct questions about the presence of Indian military personnel at UTF. The MNDF held a press conference after the signing of an agreement between the Maldives and India regarding the development, support, and maintenance of a Coast Guard dockyard at Uthuru Thila Falhu (UTF).
Dhiyares, the sister-newspaper of The Maldives Journal, was present at the press conference and had posed multiple questions to the MNDF. The MNDF were unable to provide clear responses.
Dhiyares had asked Brig. Gen. Abduh Raheem Abdul Latheef at the press conference how long the Indian military would be present at the UTF, and he was also asked if the Indian government had refused to loan them money if Indian military personnel were not permitted to be stationed at UTF. The Brigadier General only responded that the Coast Guard harbour would not be a military base.
He said that it was a dockyard and a harbour and not intended for the stationing of any military personnel. He added that the Indian military would not be stationed there and said that India would aid the Maldives in developing the harbour.
Brig Gen Abdul Latheef said that the development of the harbour would be complete and ready for use within the next three years.
After the development of the harbour, said Brig Gen Abdul Latheef, the Indian government would provide technical support “at any time, to any extent”.
He said that the technicians stationed there would not be Indian military personnel, but he refused to answer Dhiyares’ questions regarding the organisations to which the technicians belonged.
He simply reiterated that it was not a military base, and no military personnel of any country would be present there.
The question, posed to the Brigadier General repeatedly, did not elicit a clear answer.
On previous occasions, the Chief of the Defence Force, Abdulla Shamal, has stated that there were only “technicians”, and not Indian military personnel in the Maldives. However, the individuals present in the Maldives who operate and maintain India’s military helicopters happen to belong to the Indian military.
In addition, the Ministry of Defence has adamantly refused to disclose the agreements which permit the stationing of these military personnel in the country.
Dhiyares had previously requested that the Ministry of Defence disclose the number of Indian military personnel in the Maldives. On their refusal, Dhiyares appealed with the Information Commission who sided with the Ministry of Defence, claiming that the information’s disclosure posed a threat to national security. Dhiyares has appealed the case at the High Court.