India, Maldives talks to end logjam

Published - June 20, 2018 08:12 pm IST

NEW DELHI: A high-level meeting of defence officials later this month will seek to end the logjam in the India-Maldives relations over strategic issues, sources have confirmed.

According to the sources, one possible solution to the problem caused by the Yameen government’s insistence on returning two helicopters India had stationed in the Maldives for the past few years, would be if the Maldives accepts a long-pending Indian offer of a Dornier patrol aircraft instead.

“Male is likely to revive an old Letter of Exchange (LoE) that India had sent offering a Dornier aircraft for maritime surveillance,” an official source familiar with the matter told The Hindu .

Maldives itself had requested the Dornier some time ago but has not approved the LoE for the last two years.

According to the source, the LoE would be slightly modified and will include terms for about 30 Indian personnel, including pilots and engineers, as well as the construction team required to build a hangar for the plane at the Kadhdhoo National Defence facility. Expenses for the effort would be shared by both the Governments, according to the terms being discussed presently.

As in the case of the helicopters, the LoE is expected to be valid for two years with the standard provision that it can be terminated at any point. Maldives hopes to replace the Indian pilots over time with their pilots. One Maldivian pilot has already been trained in India for the Dornier and one more is to be trained soon.

According to sources, Maldives government is not willing to reconsider the leases of the two Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH) stationed in Addu and Laamu atolls and won’t extend the visas for Indian military personnel stationed there to operate them. There are about 26 Navy personnel, including pilots, currently posted there.

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