Maldives military pilots struggle with Indian-donated aircraft

In a recent development, the Maldives military faces a challenge as Defence Minister Ghassan Maumoon admits the lack of pilots to operate three aircraft donated by India. This revelation came after the departure of 76 Indian defence personnel from the island nation as per President Mohamed Muizzu’s directive.

The Pilot Shortage Issue

During a press conference at the President’s Office on May 11, Mr. Ghassan informed the media about the withdrawal of Indian soldiers responsible for operating two helicopters and a Dornier aircraft in the Maldives. He acknowledged the absence of trained Maldivian pilots within the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) to handle the donated aircraft.

Despite past efforts to train soldiers under previous governments’ agreements, the completion of the training was hindered by various reasons. As a result, there are currently no licensed or fully operational personnel in the force capable of flying the helicopters and Dornier aircraft.

Strained Relations and Military Withdrawal

The strained relations between India and the Maldives intensified when President Muizzu, known for his pro-China stance, demanded the withdrawal of all Indian military personnel operating the aviation platforms by May 10. Consequently, India withdrew 76 military personnel from the Maldives.

However, reports suggest that despite the military personnel withdrawal, the Maldives government does not plan to remove Indian doctors from the Senahiya military hospital.

Contradictory Claims and Training Initiatives

Interestingly, the current administration, which criticized the previous government during their opposition stint, previously claimed the existence of capable pilots within the MNDF. The arrival of Indian soldiers with helicopters and the Dornier aircraft was primarily aimed at training Maldivian personnel.

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Despite the existing pilot shortage, Foreign Minister Zameer announced on May 11 that the agreement to replace Indian soldiers with civilians also included provisions for training local pilots in the future.

Conclusion

As the Maldives grapples with the challenge of a pilot shortage for the donated aircraft from India, it remains to be seen how the government will address this issue moving forward. The training of local pilots is crucial for the sustainable operation of these aviation assets and fostering self-reliance in the defense sector.

For more information on this topic, you can visit The Hindu for updates and analysis related to the India-Maldives military relations.