India has provided a Dornier aircraft to the Maldives, as requested by the government.
The aircraft was provided under an “intergovernmental agreement,” to enhance security and joint Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) surveillance as well as for high availability disaster recovery.
It will be operated under the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF), while running costs are covered by India.
While the request for a Dornier aircraft was first brought up by former President Abdulla Yameen’s during a state visit to India in 2016, the incumbent government decided to move ahead with the the agreement signed by the previous administration.
During an exclusive interview to RaajjeTV in August, Indian High Commissioner Sunjay Sudhir said that the current government’s request for a Dornier aircraft is the same now as it was in 2016.
As such, Sudhir noted that a Dornier aircraft was requested for maritime surveillance to monitor Maldives’ EEZ as well as high availability disaster recovery purposes and search and recovery operations.
According to officials, multiple large fishing trawlers illegally fishing in Maldivian waters were discovered during the last EEZ surveillance visit by India.
Noting that the reasons are the same now as well, the high commissioner said that some more reasons “have been added.” He said that this includes counter terrorism operations as well as drug operations, adding that “with the help of surveillance aircraft like Dornier, it is much easier to combat these kinds of things.”
India has been using the Dornier to monitor and inform Maldivian authorities of movement of drug traffickers headed to the island nation.
The aircraft is also to be used in operations against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing.
While the high commissioner had revealed that two pilots and an observer were trained to operate the aircraft in 2017, the Indian high commission noted that “Maldivian pilots, observers and technical personnel have been undergoing training to operate the aircraft since June 2017.” It added that the Maldivian government “has been successful in getting more such trainings organised by India.”
While the Dornier aircraft deal was reached in 2016, the Yameen administration decided to return the gift two years later. The incumbent government announced the decision to continue work to acquire the aircraft, in July.
Maldives' historic relations with India turned sour during Yameen's tenure, however, the relationship has improved since incumbent President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih took over in November 2018. While Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a short visit to the country to attend Solih's inauguration ceremony, the president's first state visit was to the neighboring nation.