PM Modi government in India gets a latest snub from Maldives

PM Modi government in India gets a latest snub from Maldives

NEW DELHI - In a snub to Narendra Modi government in India the Maldives government has asked India to withdraw military helicopters and personnel posted there following the expiry of an agreement in June.

This the latest snub to New Delhi by President Abdulla Yameen`s China-backed government.

India and China are going head to head in the Maldives, the Indian Ocean island chain where Beijing is building roads, bridges and a bigger airport, upstaging India which has been the country`s prime provider of military and civilian aid for decades.

India has opposed Yameen`s crackdown on political rivals and the imposition of an emergency this year.

The tensions are impacting aid programmes such as security assistance that New Delhi has given to smaller countries in the region to help them protect exclusive economic zones, carry out surveys and combat piracy.

The Maldives` ambassador in India, Ahmed Mohamed said that helicopters were no longer required as the islands had built up enough resources of its own.

"They were very useful in the past but with the development of adequate infrastructure, facilities and resources we are now in a position to handle medical evacuations on our own," he said.

However, India and the Maldives are still conducting joint patrols in the islands` exclusive economic zone every month, Mohamed said. The Maldives, 400 km (250 miles) to the southwest of India, is close to the world`s busiest shipping lanes, between China and the Middle East.

Along with the helicopters, India had stationed around 50 military personnel, including pilots and maintenance crew, and their visas had expired. But New Delhi has not yet withdrawn them from the island chain.

"We are still there, our two helicopters and the men," an Indian navy spokesman said on Wednesday, adding the foreign ministry was handling the situation. The foreign ministry did not respond to a Reuters` request for comment.