ARE INDO-MALDIVIAN RELATIONS STRAINED?
There are specific issues, which have fuelled the anti-India sentiments and rhetoric on the social media during the last three years. The first is the long-standing controversy over the two Advanced Light Helicopters (ALF) that were given by India to the Maldives in 2010 and in 2015, both of which were used for ocean search-and-rescue operations, maritime weather surveillance and for airlifting patients between islands.
These helicopters were meant to be deployed for humanitarian purposes only, but some in the anti-India constituency, particularly Yameen’s party PPM, tried to portray that by giving these helicopters, India was creating a military presence in the country because they were military choppers.
Secondly, the two countries signed bilateral agreements according to which Indian officers were to train the Maldives National Defense Force, under whose command these helicopters operate.
Thirdly, after the Solih government came to power, in 2019, local Maldivian media speculated that the UTF Harbour Project agreement signed between India and the Maldives in 2016, during the Yameen government, would be turned into an Indian naval base. Under the project India was to develop and maintain a coastguard harbor and dockyard at Uthuru Thilafalhu, a strategically located atoll near the capital Malé, and develop road connectivity to Male and decongest the Male harbor.