ARE INDO-MALDIVIAN RELATIONS STRAINED?
Back then, Maldivian chief of defence forces, Major-General Abdulla Shamaal had said that while the Indian government had indicated that it would provide grant assistance for this project, there were no plans of any Indian naval base in the country. Fourthly, in 2016, an Action Plan between India and the Maldives was signed for ‘defence cooperation’ to enhance “shared strategic and security interests of the two countries in the Indian Ocean region”.
In 2016 when anti-India sentiments were at their peak and the bilateral relations were at their worst against the perceived military presence of Indian forces in Maldives, the Yameen government had asked India to take back these helicopters and refused to extend the term of the agreement that would extend their stay and use in the country.
Observers say that one of the main reasons behind the ‘India Out’ campaign was rooted in this controversy surrounding the ALF choppers and India’s reported refusal to take them back. During the Yameen-era, India had looked on in concern as the Maldives began to develop stronger ties with China and its Belt and Road Initiative.
By 2018 when Ibrahim Mohamed Solih assumed office, he immediately renegotiated these agreements, extending the stay and use of these choppers in the country. The Solih government’s visibly warm relations with India have only served to fuel anti-India sentiment in the country.