Sunday 14th Jul 2024
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A Look Back: India's Violation of Maldivian Sovereignty Over Refusal to Withdraw Helicopters

As Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh visits the Maldives today to sign more military agreements, it is important to remember past instances that raised concerns about the Maldives' sovereignty. According to diplomatic notes obtained by the Maldives Journal, India's refusal to withdraw military helicopters from the Maldives in 2018 significantly strained the relationship between the two countries.
In April 2018, the Maldivian foreign ministry requested the withdrawal of the MNDF Kurangi Advanced Light Helicopter from the Maldives by the end of June 2018.
The Government of Maldives (GoM) sent another letter in May 2018 to the Indian embassy, asking for the withdrawal of the IN-ALH750 helicopter at Laamu atoll by the same deadline.
Despite these requests, India did not withdraw the helicopters. The Maldivian government followed up in June 2018, asking for a schedule detailing the withdrawal process.
The Indian embassy responded later that month, stating that they needed more time to examine the withdrawal request and requesting visa extensions for the helicopter crew.
The Maldivian government replied on June 27th, reiterating their request for the helicopters to be withdrawn by June 30th and asking for an urgent withdrawal schedule. However, India did not comply with the deadline. When the Maldivian government refused to extend the visas for the helicopter crew, the helicopters were rendered inoperable.
After President Yameen lost the election and President Solih took office on November 17th, 2018, the helicopter agreements were renewed and the helicopters resumed operation. Since then, the Maldivian government has signed various military agreements with India, raising concerns over the potential undermining of the Maldives' sovereignty.
As new military agreements are negotiated today, it is crucial to remain vigilant of India's expansionist policies in the Indian Ocean region. The Maldives risks losing its independence if the government continues to agree to each and every military agreement proposed by India. Moreover, the Maldives may be drawn into a cold war between geopolitical powers if it does not tread carefully in its diplomatic relations. It is essential for the Maldives to prioritize its sovereignty and maintain a balanced approach in engaging with regional powers to ensure its long-term stability and independence.