The Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) revealed on Tuesday that two Indian military surveillance planes landed at Hanimaadhoo International Airport in Haa Dhaalu Atoll around 10:25 a.m.
According to MNDF spokesperson Major Ibrahim Azim, the plane will remain at the airport until its scheduled departure on September 16.
He further noted that the aircraft was part of a series of joint inspections of the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) between the two countries, carried out by the Maldivian coastguard, the MNDF and India.
Hanimaadhoo Island Council Acting Secretary General Ibrahim Ali said the crew of around 15 Indian nationals would remain at the airport premises and would not enter populated areas of the island.
The arrival of the plane coincides with strong public criticism of the foreign military presence in the country, notably by the opposition alliance made up of the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and the National People’s Congress (PNC).
Lhaviyani Atoll Naifaru Constituency Parliamentary Representative and PPM Vice President Ahmed Shiyam said two people were arrested on the island for publicly releasing photos and videos of the arrival. , and were also urged to delete the images.
However, the Maldives Police Department has refuted the lawmaker’s claims.
In addition, the head of the armed forces, Major General Abdulla Shamaal, said on Sunday that no foreign armed forces were present in the Maldives.
In a press conference held by senior MNDF officers, Shamaal described a military presence as armed officers with ulterior motives.
Repeatedly denying such a presence in the Maldives, Shamaal declared that âtechnicians, technical personnel serving for humanitarian purposes [and those] help us and meet our needs work in the Maldives “.
He explained that foreign personnel are currently operating the helicopters offered by India, as local pilots specialized in the field are not available.
With the Indian Ocean being an important territory, Shamaal added that the United States, Saudi Arabia, China, Pakistan and the United Kingdom are also providing military assistance to expand the capacity of the Maldivian armed forces.
Stressing that “the army will not allow anything to endanger the freedom of the Maldives”, Shamaal added that the MNDF would preserve the constitution and the freedom of the island nation.