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SOURCE: PTI

Weeks after India’s military personnel withdrawal from the Maldives, two helicopters gifted by New Delhi continue regular operations with Maldivian National Defence Force (MNDF) soldiers onboard, a local news portal reported on Tuesday.

According to Adhadhu.com, a Maldivian airport official stated that an MNDF soldier is always onboard during helicopter flights. Pro-China President Mohamed Muizzu, who came to power last September, had pledged to remove all Indian military personnel by May 10. Consequently, the last of the 88 personnel were sent back by the deadline.

Despite the withdrawal, the Indian-donated helicopters and a Dornier aircraft continue to support hundreds of medical evacuations and humanitarian missions in the Maldives. With military staff repatriated, civilian replacements from India have taken over operations. An airport worker, wishing to remain anonymous, confirmed to Adhadhu.com that the helicopters are flown regularly for maintenance purposes.

The report noted that the Maldives National Defence Force media official declined to comment on the operational flights but the situation follows allegations from 2019 when Maldivian Defence Minister Ghassan Maumoon accused Indian pilots of unauthorized operations—claims refuted by India.

India maintains that their aviation platforms in the Maldives operate under agreed procedures. As per a recent dialogue, Defence Minister Maumoon acknowledged the Maldives still lacks the capability to operate the donated aircraft independently.

Furthermore, despite the establishment of new air ambulance services and a military Air Corps, the Maldives government opted to continue the operational presence of Indian aircraft with civilian crews.