DefenceSouth Asia

Maldives says they cannot operate Dornier aircraft given by India

The Maldives military is confronting a capability shortfall following its admission of insufficient pilots qualified to operate three aircraft gifted by India.

Days after the withdrawal of 76 Indian defence personnel left Maldives at the request of Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu, the Maldivian defence minister has admitted that its military lacks pilots capable of operating the three Dornier aircraft donated by India.

This occurred one day after Maldivian Foreign Minister Moosa Zameer said that Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, the company that made the helicopter that the Indian government gave, has dispatched civilian employees to replace the 76 Indian military troops stationed on the island nation, showing continued attempts to advance Maldivian aviation capabilities despite present constraints.

Dornier Aircraft’s Operation Challenges in Maldives

“There aren’t any people licensed to fly the Dornier aircraft,” said Ghassan who made the remarks during a press conference convened at the President’s Office on Saturday to notify the media about the departure of Indian military stationed in the Maldives to operate two helicopters and a Dornier aircraft and their replacement by Indian civilians.

Dornier aircraft
Source: The Economic Times

Answering a question from a journalist, Ghassan said that while some MNDF personnel had begun flying training, none of the three planes that the Indian military had provided were flown by Maldivian soldiers.

The primary purpose of the planes and helicopters, which were provided by previous presidents Mohamed Nasheed, Abdulla Yameen, and Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, was to train personnel from the Maldives.

But as things are right now, this instruction is lacking a selective approach to the presence of Indian soldiers in the nation appears to have been taken by the Maldivian administration, which has chosen to keep the Indian physicians employed at Senahiya Military Hospital.

According to research, this circumstance is still influencing the strategic and diplomatic environment between India and the Maldives.

“As it was a training that required passing various stages, our soldiers had not reached completion due to various reasons. Therefore, there aren’t any people in our force at the moment who are licensed or fully operational to fly the two helicopters and Dornier aircraft,” Ghassan was quoted as saying by the news portal.

This confession contrasts sharply with the claims of key officials of the new administration, who have criticized the previous government for its mismanagement. These officials have asserted that the MNDF had competent pilots, challenging Ghassan’s statements, as per the Firstpost report.

Following a deadline established in February as part of a deal between the two countries, the Indian officials departed the Maldives on Friday. Soon after assuming office in November 2023, the pro-China Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu made a demand that was eventually met with this deal.

As per the May 10 deadline established after the two nations agreed in New Delhi in February, the Indian military personnel stationed in the Maldives to operate two platforms for helicopters and a Dornier aircraft have departed Male and returned to India by Friday.

Since taking office, Muizzu’s administration has excluded India from several projects and signed many agreements with China to strengthen commercial ties. The decision to swap out Indian military troops for civilians is perceived as a blow to India’s attempts to stave off Chinese influence in the tiny but strategically significant nation to its south.

In March, the Maldives and China inked a military aid agreement. In the backyard of India, it has also let a Chinese research vessel dock at its port. Pro-China Muizzu ran on an “India Out” platform, claiming that the Maldives’ sovereignty was undermined by the Indian military’s presence in the nation, even as New Delhi’s relations with Male, the capital of the Maldives, increased dramatically during the previous government.

Muizzu urged India to return the military personnel, present there to help the island country with maritime surveillance, medical evacuations, and search and rescue missions. In the Maldives, however, the men’s presence was seen as “boots on the ground.”

You might also be interested in – Indian military withdraw from Maldives following President Muizzu’s directive

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