New Delhi (Sputnik): India has postponed the rollback of two Advanced Light Helicopters it had given to the Maldives despite the end of the deadline set by the Abdulla Yameen government in June this year.
"This is not intentional. Rather we are ensuring that the helicopters should land in India safely. The present weather condition does not allow us to issue an order to return the choppers," a government official told Sputnik.
However, the official did not confirm whether New Delhi had conveyed its concerns to Male. One of the two helicopters is stationed at the Maldives' southern-most island in Addu, and the second one at Laamu, on the northern tip of the island. The aerial distance between Addu and the nearest airfield at the southern Indian coast is around 1,000 miles which is more than that of the flight range of the helicopters. The helicopters will have to be transported by ship to the Indian mainland which India avoids in rough weather conditions.
Bilateral ties between India and the Maldives soured in February this year when Maldives President Abdulla Yameen declared a state of emergency following an order by the country's Supreme Court to release a group of leaders who were earlier convicted for anti-state activities. India backing the court order irked the current dispensation in the Maldives. The authorities then subsequently initiated several steps including returning of the helicopters, thus hampering New Delhi's strategic interest in the Indian Ocean Region.
The press in the Maldives have reported that the helicopters have come along with maintenance personnel belonging to the Indian Navy and the Indian Coast Guard; hence the government wants them to return along with the aircraft.