Malé, Maldives – Former captain of Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF), Ali Ihusaan has said that it was not a responsibility of the military to defend the alleged ‘fake’ Uthuru Thilafalhu (UTF) naval base harbor draft agreement.
While addressing the press conference held by MNDF yesterday regarding the leaked documents, Ali Ihusaan stated that while the UTF project is a long awaited developmental project of the military, it could have been done by the government or through a loan and doing it in a manner in which India will have influence over a military base. He also added that MNDF does not have to defend an agreement which the government had made which allows Indian influence over the base.
Speaking at the press conference held yesterday by MNDF, Chief of Defense Force, Major General Abdulla Shamaal said that the leaked draft agreement was a fake and told that no armed personnel will be stationed at the base. He also added that there was no clause of the agreement which people of the Maldives should be worried about.
According to the leaked ‘fake’ draft agreement, armed Indian forces would be stationed at the Uthuru Thilafalhu area, which is will be developed as a harbor and dock yard for the purposes of Coast Guard. The agreement period was dated for 30 years, with an additional 30 years to be added by default given no objections from either party.
Leaked unsigned draft agreement between the Maldivian and Indian governments to develop a harbour and dockyard for the purposes of Coast Guard has revealed that all Indian personnel, contractors and services to be exempted from duties and taxes and also that all official Indian documents would be exempted from Customs inspection.
The draft agreement also gives immunity to Indian personnel from any suits or proceedings for implementation of the agreement in Maldives except if those personnel are found guilty of gross negligence or willful misconduct. In addition to this, the Maldivian government is to give full immunity to the personnel deputed by the Indian government and their papers and premises from legal and judicial process as to other diplomatic personnel in Maldives.
Addressing concerns over the agreement during the time the agreement was signed, MNDF had previously reassured the public that no armed personnel would be stationed at the site.
Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) had denied any such allegations before and had reassured that no military force will be based at the harbour, detailing that it would only be used to dock and repair Coast Guard vessels.
While Indian Military presence in Maldives has been a great cause of distress to the current opposition, who have even launched an “#IndiaOut” campaign, the development of this harbour and dockyard in Uthuru Thila Falhu was included under the Defence Action Plan signed between India and Maldives in 2016 – when the opposition was in power and the country was led by former president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayyoom.
The project will be carried out in two phases, with the construction of the harbour and dockyard expected to be completed within the first three years. The site will also have a naval harbour with communication equipment and resources, radar services, along with training facilities.