The Maldives has formally requested India to provide “comprehensive details” of an incident in which its coast guard personnel allegedly boarded three Maldivian fishing vessels operating within its economic zone.
This is the latest in the diplomatic row between the two nations that led to strained bilateral ties after President Mohamed Muizzu, widely seen as a pro-China leader, came to power in November last year. There was no immediate response from the Indian government to the allegations.
On January 31, the Indian Army intercepted a Maldivian fishing boat engaged in fishing activities within the Maldives’ Special Economic Zone (EEZ), 72 nautical miles northeast of Dhidhdhoo, Haa Alifu Atoll, the Maldives’ defence ministry claimed in a statement on Friday.
It said that the Indian troops boarded three fishing boats within the Maldives EEZ without prior consultation with relevant authorities, breaching international maritime laws and regulations.
“Consequently, the Maldivian government initiated an official request through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, seeking comprehensive details of the incident from the Indian government,” it said.
The statement said that boarding teams from Indian Coast Guard Ship 246 and Indian Coast Guard Ship 253 were responsible for interrogating the fishing boats.
President Muizzu, 45, defeated India-friendly incumbent Ibrahim Mohamed Solih in the presidential runoff in September last year.
After assuming office, Mohamed Muizzu formally requested India to withdraw military personnel from his country by March 15, saying the Maldivian people have given him a “strong mandate” to make this request to New Delhi.
His government was entangled in a diplomatic row with India after derogatory social media posts by three of his ministers against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
On Friday, India said a “set of mutually workable solutions” was agreed upon with the Maldives for continuing the operations of Indian aviation platforms in the island nation.
At present, around 80 Indian military personnel are in the Maldives to primarily operate two helicopters and an aircraft that have carried out hundreds of medical evacuations and humanitarian missions.
The Indian platforms have been providing humanitarian and medical evacuation services to the people of the Maldives for several years.
Following the high-level meeting in New Delhi, the Maldivian foreign ministry said India will replace its military personnel operating the three aviation platforms in the Maldives by May 10 and the first phase of the process would be completed by March 10.
“Both sides agreed that the Government of India will replace the military personnel in one of the three aviation platforms by March 10, and will complete replacing military personnel in the other two platforms by May 10,” it said in a statement.