Malé, Maldives, – Former Minister of Home Affairs, Umar Naseer has stated that the risk is having an agreement to begin with, while talking about the Uthuru Thilafalhu (UTF) agreement that the government made with India.
The Indian government and the Maldivian government had signed an agreement on February 21, 2021 to build a naval harbor and dock yard for the purposes of Coast Guard, in Uthuru Thilafalhu.
Umar had leaked a draft UTF agreement which was apparently sent to the Maldives by the Indian government on 22 June 2020. The leaked document states that armed military forces of India can stay in UTF, for up to 30 years. An additional 30 years is to be added by default given no objections from either party.
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. It further states that permission from India has to be granted for any businesses or other purposes in that area of UTF.
While the Defence Ministry has claimed that the agreement has not been leaked and that this document is fake Umar Naseer has said that the danger is not what is contained in the agreement, but the risk is the existence of the agreement itself. He has also said that India wanting to uptake such a small country like Maldives is proof of the government’s endorsement, and that this is why the agreement itself becomes a risk to the nation.
The biggest concern is that (the government) has signed the agreement. Signing is more worrying than what is written in the agreement. The only way a country can go in to such a small country like Maldives, is with the endorsement of the government. The document is made only for the purpose of showing off to the international community. This here is the agreement. What is written in the agreement is not important. The risk is the agreement itself. Not what the agreement contains.Umar Naseer, Former Minister of Home Affairs
Chief of Defence Force, Major General Abdulla Shamaal had reassured that no armed personnel will be stationed at the base, and that only the people given permission from the Maldivian Defence Force can access the area. The Chief also denied such allegations made by the media and has warned that steps will be taken against the people who are spreading baseless rumors.
There was a claim that the agreement information was leaked by a general officer. This is a fabrication. I have full guarantee that no such actions will be taken by any of the Maldivian National Defence Force (MNDF) officers. Such false accusations made against the MNDF just for the purpose of making a point is despondent. People spread lies just to make political profit.Chief of Defense Force, Major General Abdulla Shamaal
Chief Shamaal had stated that the public should not be worried about the UTF agreement, and that this facility is going to be made solely for the purposes of MNDF. He further stated that only the Maldivian Government can choose the people that will be involved in the work and operations of the place.
Chief Shamaal had also added that if the government wants to annul the agreement, the government has full rights to do so, and that access to UTF for ships from countries all over the world has to be granted.
UTF is not going be made for operations of foreign countries. This is not a military base, and let alone does even not have the characteristics needed for a military base. This is just for the coast guard.Chief of Defense Force, Major General Abdulla Shamaal
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 UTF naval harbor 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.