The two helicopters gifted to the Maldives by the Indian government would remain, president Ibrahim Mohamed Solih confirmed Wednesday.
Maldives under former president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom had returned one of the choppers in May and had asked India to remove the second by the end of June.
However, after extensive discussions between both sides, the then Maldives government had extended the deadline to remove the helicopters till December.
Speaking during a press conference to brief the media on his state visit to neighbours India, president Solih pointed out that the helicopters had been used in multiple search and rescue operations and medical evacuations.
President Solih also said the helicopters were brought in under an agreement signed in 2010 during former president Mohamed Nasheed’s government while the two successive presidents had renewed the agreement.
There had been reports that the then government had been concerned by the presence of Indian navy staff who are stationed in the Maldives for the maintenance of the choppers.
India had reportedly stationed six pilots and over a dozen ground personnel to operate the choppers and also help the Maldivian National Defence Force (MNDF).
However, president Solih said downplayed such concerns insisting that the helicopters are flown under the strict instruction of the relevant Maldivian authorities.
“Though the helicopters are flown by Indian pilots, we tell them when and where to go,” Solih stressed.
He also said the helicopters since they were brought in had saved over 100 Maldivian lives adding that the cost of operating the choppers are entirely borne by the Indian government.