The Maldives was bent upon returning the two choppers stationed at the Gan airfield in Addu, the Maldives’ southern-most island, and at Laamu, on the northern tip operated by the Indian Navy and the Indian Coast Guard
In what could be termed as a major diplomatic victory for the Narendra Modi government, the Maldives has now told New Delhi that it will keep two Indian helicopters with it till December along with the 48-member crew after asking it to take back both its helicopters last month.
Due to the pressure from the Maldivian government, the Navy had even readied its warships in the Southern Naval Command at Kochi for ferrying the choppers back from there but now those tasks are believed to have been suspended.
“Maldives has asked us to immediately extend the deployment of the two ALH Dhruv choppers there till December and also immediately apply for the extension of visa of India crew of 50 personnel from the Indian Navy, Coast Guard and the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited,” a highly placed government source told MyNation.
As per sources, the Indian crew members are today applying for the visa extensions as Friday and Saturday are weekend holidays in the Maldives.
The return of choppers to India was seen as a setback for India and further strengthening of China in the island nation that has been slipping into the Chinese grip for the past few years.
Along with this, the Maldivian government has also sent one of its coast guard ships named Huravee to Vishakhapatnam for carrying out repairs. The repair which is likely to be done for free by India is likely to cost around $10 million.
The change in the rigid stance of Maldives has come at a time when it was bent upon returning the two choppers stationed at the Gan airfield in Addu, the Maldives’ southern-most island, and at Laamu, on the northern tip operated by the Indian Navy and the Indian Coast Guard (ICG).
Despite the stance taken by the Maldivian government and widespread criticism of the External Affairs Ministry for not being able to handle the issue properly, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman refused to talk about it during a press conference saying the matter was still under discussion.
India and its Navy are seen as net security providers in the Indian Ocean region and it was felt that with the Maldives slipping out of its influence, its image would suffer a dent in the region due to the Maldivian stance.
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Last Updated Jul 22, 2018, 3:13 PM IST