Within 24 hours after new President of Maldives Ibrahim Mohamed Solih was sworn in, the new Defence Minister of Maldives Mariya Didi has told WION that Male won't be returning back the two Indian helicopters which New Delhi had gifted.
The Maldives under former president Abdulla Yameen had asked New Delhi to take back the helicopters.
Speaking to WION, the new defence minister said, "It’s not in our culture to ask neighbours to take back what they give."
One chopper is deployed in the Indian Ocean, in the nation's southernmost island of Addu, and the other in the strategically-located Laamu. Along with the helicopters approximately 50 Indian personnel were also there. The helicopters which were gifted in 2013 after the Maldives had requested for them.
Mariya also said, "The helicopters can be put to good use for medical evacuations and for search and rescue." Its for the first time the new Maldivian defence minister spoke to any Indian organisation after taking charge.
Maldives' former ambassador in India, Ahmed Mohamed, had told news agency, "They were very useful in the past but with the development of adequate infrastructure, facilities and resources we are now in a position to handle medical evacuations on our own."
Former president Mohamed Nasheed had indicated that China was responsible for the development and told WION a few months ago that Yameen was under pressure from "external forces to remove these helicopters".
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was present at the oath-taking the ceremony of President Solih on Saturday. The new president in his first address after being sworn in had said, "We will endeavour to fortify existing ties with India. The Maldives will hereupon bolster its shared role to retain enduring peace and harmony of the Indian Ocean."
India was the only country invited at the Head of State/Government level at the presidential oath taking ceremony and PM Modi was the first leader Solih met after becoming the president. Both Maldives and India also issued a joint statement calling to strengthen ties and ease visa regime. The new Maldivian Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid will be visiting India on November 26.