Indian Navy Helicopter Lands in a Maldivian Island Without Approval
An instance of the IN-706, one of the two helicopters operated by the Indian military in the Maldives, having landed in Thimarafushi (Thaa Atoll) without the authorization of the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) has come to light.
The Maldivian Coast Guard commandant Col Mohamed Saleem had sent an email to the commander of the Indian naval contingent stationed in the Maldives requesting that such actions not be carried out again.
The Maldives Journal received a copy of the email that had been sent by Col Saleem on 17 October 2019.
The helicopter had landed in Thimarafushi Airport without MNDF authorization on 9 October 2019. As per the email, Lt Commander Vinod; who was the senior pilot on that flight; had admitted to it.
Airport officials had complained about the unauthorized landing to Coast Guard Aviation and to the MNDF.
Col Saleem wrote that such actions posed a threat to national security, and could also result in political unrest. Col Saleem requested that specific guidlines be followed to prevent recurrence in the future. The guidelines proposed in the email are as follows:
- The Coast Guard Aviation Commander’s permission must be sought prior to any movement of the helicopters,
- The helicopters must not land on any island or airport other than Gan,
- If any operation involving the helicopters will be carried out, a schedule of the operation must be shared with the MNDF 24 hours in advance, and any amendments to the schedule must be provided in writing,
- The use of the helicopters should include Maldivian military servicepeople as much as possible,
- Regardless of where the helicopter lands, a full report of the operation must be provided to the MNDF
The MNDF official who shared the copy of the email with The Maldives Journal mentioned that the Indian military had not honored these guidelines and that no Maldivian servicepeople had been included in any helicopter operations.
Although the helicopters are maintained and operated by the Indian military, the Solih administration and the Indian High Commission in the Maldives have repeatedly characterized these helicopters as “gifts” granted from India to the Maldives. Col Saleem’s email indicates that the MNDF has very little, if any, control over the helicopters.
As per the leaked agreements about the helicopters, the highest authority over the helicopters is the Indian High Commissioner to the Maldives. The next highest authority is a high-ranking member of the Indian military.
The Ministry of Defence’s Information Officer declined to comment on this story, citing that they had not been informed about the event.