Security ties between the Maldives and China can only be sustained by allowing the Chinese to build a military base in the Maldives, said Defence Minister Mariya Ahmed Didi last night. The current administration does not intend to allow such a base, she added.
This comes within days of the Nikkei Asian Review’s story that delegates from India and the Maldives were agreeing upon an Indian loan of $1 billion in exchange for the stationing of Indian military personnel in the Maldives.
During an appearance on the pro-government news channel RaajjeTV, Minister Didi mentioned that the Maldives does not “hate” any other nation. The Maldives maintains security ties with India and Sri Lanka because they are neighbours, she mentioned. Such ties can be maintained without allowing these countries to establish military bases, she said.
China is further away from the Maldives, and therefore a Chinese military base is necessary in order for security ties between the two nations, said the Minister.
“China is a country on the Pacific Ocean. Their military is stationed around there. If we were to practically maintain security ties with China, we need to give them a military base”, said the Minister.
“However, India is nearby and their military is there. If we need their help, India is within reach and ready to provide it. So, let’s not change the facts to score political points”, said the Minister.
The Chinese embassy had previously come under fire by the leadership of Minister Didi’s party, the MDP, after they had alleged that Chinese military bases were being built in Laamu Atoll in 2015. The Chinese embassy in the Maldives had denied the allegations as “completely false”, and stated that “it is a common knowledge that China pursues a national defense policy that is defensive in nature… China does not maintain any military in any foreign country”.
The Minister also responded to concerns regarding the Indian helicopters in the Maldives.
Minister Mariya Didi stated that all of the costs of maintaining the helicopters are handled by India. Therefore, this is a great service that the Maldivian state is receiving “for free”.
“If a medical evacuation is necessary, India gives us the fuel that’s necessary for it. When the helicopters are used for search-and-rescue operations, all of the costs of running the helicopters and fueling them are borne by India. That is because the helicopters are said to be theirs,” she said.
The Maldivian state does not have the budget to maintain the helicopters, mentioned the Minister. Therefore, such things need to be handled by neighbouring countries.
“When sewage and drinking water remain pressing issues to the country, we cannot afford to purchase and maintain expensive equipment for a disaster that may or may not happen.”
This does not mean that power is being delegated to a foreign country and that security matters, world-wide, are being overseen through co-operation between nations, said the Minister.
The previous government’s attempts to maintain these helicopters through the state’s budget was done so as a pretext for corruption, alleged the Minister.
President Yameen Abdul Gayyoom’s administration had requested that India take back the helicopters by July 2018, which India had refused to do so. In addition, the Abdul Gayyoom administration had denied visa renewal of the 48 Indian military personnel stationed at Iskandhar Air Base in an attempt to remove them from the country. India had also failed to remove them from the Base.
The Minister of Defence Adam Shareef Umar under President Abdul Gayyoom’s administration had told the media that the government was planning to replace these helicopters with Donier maritime surveillance aircraft.
When asked why Maldivian pilots and mechanics have not yet been trained by the Indian military to maintain and drive these helicopters, the Minister answered that both countries have answers to that question. India alleges that the Maldivian military has not yet chosen people to be trained in the past eight years. The Maldivian military say that any attempts to train their own personnel have been unsuccessful.
The Minister also denied the claims that Indian military conducted any intelligence activity within the Maldives. She dismissed such claims as “stupid”. She did admit that in modern times, intelligence activity would likely be focused on exploiting “technology”.