Updated May 14th, 2024 at 08:30 IST

Maldives Defence Minister Acknowledges Military’s Inability to Operate Indian-donated Dorniers

Maldives Defense Minister admits shortage of pilots to operate Indian-donated aircraft, adding strain to diplomatic ties with India.

Reported by: Yuvraj Tyagi
The Dornier 228 is a twin-turboprop STOL utility aircraft. | Image:IAF
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Male: In a surprising revelation, Maldives Defense Minister Ghassan Maumoon publicly acknowledged the nation's glaring deficiency: the military lacks pilots capable of operating three aircraft generously donated by India. This admission comes in the wake of the abrupt departure of 76 Indian defence personnel from the island nation, following the directive of Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu.  

Speaking at a press conference held at the President's Office, Ghassan Maumoon shed light on the withdrawal of Indian soldiers stationed in the Maldives to operate two helicopters and a Dornier aircraft. These military personnel are now being replaced by civilians from India, adding a layer of complexity to the already delicate situation.  

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Unfit for Flight: Maldives Military's Aviation Quandary  

Among the aircraft in question is the Dornier 228, a twin-engine turboprop aircraft renowned for its versatility and multi-mission capabilities. Manufactured by M/s HAL for the Indian Coast Guard, this aircraft boasts a lightweight design, wide operating speeds, and fuel-efficient characteristics. Despite its potential roles in maritime patrol, surveillance, search and rescue, and medical evacuation, the Maldives military finds itself unable to capitalize on its benefits due to the absence of qualified pilots. 

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Ghassan Maumoon, addressing inquiries from journalists, candidly admitted the dearth of Maldivian soldiers within the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) capable of operating the donated aircraft. He cited incomplete training programs and various other factors as reasons for the lack of licensed and fully operational pilots within the force.  

Diplomatic Turbulence: Strained Relations and Strategic Withdrawals  

The revelation of the Maldives' aviation incapacity adds fuel to the fire of already strained relations between India and the island nation. President Mohamed Muizzu's insistence on the withdrawal of all Indian military personnel operating the aviation platforms further exacerbates diplomatic tensions. With India already withdrawing 76 military personnel, the situation calls into question the stability and efficacy of bilateral relations. 

Despite this, the Maldives government maintains its stance on retaining Indian doctors at the Senahiya military hospital. However, contradictions arise as current administration officials, who once criticized the previous government's handling of military affairs, now find themselves grappling with the same challenges.

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Training Maldivian pilots was the primary objective behind the deployment of Indian soldiers with the donated helicopters and Dornier aircraft during previous administrations. Despite setbacks in completing training programs, Foreign Minister Zameer reaffirmed the government's commitment to replacing Indian soldiers with civilian counterparts while concurrently facilitating the training of local pilots.  The urgency to address aviation shortcomings underscores the pressing need for strategic planning and cooperation between nations to ensure the security and stability of the region. 

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Published May 14th, 2024 at 08:30 IST