India to hand over `Dhruv` to the Maldives today

India will pledge a second Advanced Light Helicopter, Dhruv, to the Maldives National Defence Force.

Updated: Dec 14, 2013, 01:55 AM IST

Zee Media Bureau

Kochi: India will on Saturday pledge a second Advanced Light Helicopter, Dhruv, to the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF).

The visiting Maldivian Minister of Defence Mohamed Nazim will uncover the frame-marking of the indigenously-built ALH.

The ALH, manned by Indian naval crew and build by the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), will be transferred to the MNDF at the Indian Navy’s Southern Command here.

India donated an ALH to the MNDF in 2010.

“The Madivian Defence Minister will be in Kochi on December 14 and visit facilities under the Southern Naval Command. An ALH manufactured by HAL will be symbolically handed over to the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) in his presence,” Indian Defence Ministry spokesperson said.

“The ALH is expected to be positioned in Male by early 2014 and would be the second ALH to be provided to Maldives,” he added.

Defence Minister AK Antony on Thursday said India was committed to strengthening defence relations with Maldives as he met with Maldivian Minister of Defence and National Security Mohamed Nazim.

He also announced all MNDF personnel will henceforth be eligible for treatment in armed forces medical institutions in India for major surgeries and for treatment of major and serious illnesses, a Ministry of Defence spokesperson said.

Both the ministers also discussed continued conduct of bilateral exercises and decided the next joint exercise will be held in 2014.

Antony conveyed continued Indian support to the medical facilities and expertise for the Maldives National Defence Force.

They discussed training of Maldivian medical specialists in India, deputation of Indian armed forces medical specialists to Maldives and strengthening of medical infrastructure in Maldives among other proposals, the spokesperson said.

India-Maldives ties had come under strain in the last two years as the Indian Ocean island archipelago went through a political turmoil.

India remains wary of China`s continuing efforts to expand its strategic footprint in Maldives.

India, on its part, has tried to step up its own defence engagement with Maldives as well as other countries in the Indian Ocean region. Antony had visited Maldives in August 2009. Indian warships and Dornier reconnaissance aircraft have been regularly helping Maldives in maritime patrol and surveillance.

(With Agency inputs)