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India to donate military aircraft, new helicopter to Maldives, January 20 1842 2016

India has promised the Maldivian military a fixed-wing aircraft and a second helicopter, according to Defence Minister Adam Shareef, who is currently in New Delhi on an official visit.

Shareef’s counterpart Manohar Parrikar pledged to continue assist the Maldivian National Defence Forces and said that India “will fulfill all requests for assistance by the army,” the defence ministry said External website that opens in a new window in a statement.

Parrikar is expected to visit Malé this year, Shareef added in a Facebook post.

The helicopter will be the second advanced light helicopter gifted by India. The first helicopter, dubbed Kurangi, was handed over in 2010. Kurangi is primarily used in medical evacuations. Since it’s induction, it has conducted 69 medical evacuations and saved 73 lives, the Indian High Commission said in December.

India and Maldives have been conducting annual joint-military exercises since 2009.

In December, the Indian government also donated US$247,471 for the construction of a hangar and aviation facilities at the Laamu Atoll Kadhoo domestic airport.

India-Maldives relations come under strain last year with the jailing of former President Mohamed Nasheed in March. However, amidst fears of growing Chinese influence in the Indian Ocean, India moved to boost ties External website that opens in a new window, pledging in October to broaden cooperation in the defence, human resource, trade and health sectors.

This January, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet endorsed External website that opens in a new window a 2014 plan to train health sector professionals and assist in the proceurement of essential and generic drugs.

The Indian government is also spending US$10million on renovating the state-owned Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital, a 200-bed hospital that was built with Indian assistance and opened in 1995.

India also assisted in setting up the Senahiya military hospital in Malé. A team of Indian Armed force doctors and technical staff were deployed to the Maldives to help run it.

“Cooperation in health Sector has been one of the important elements of India’s relations with Maldives,” the Indian High Commission said at the time.

During President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s tenure, the Maldives scrapped several business deals made with Indian companies during Nasheed’s tenure.

Waheed, who was Nasheed’s deputy, assumed power when Nasheed resigned following a police and military mutiny.

The government’s abrupt termination of an airport development agreement with Indian infrastructure giant GMR soured relations in 2012. The Indian government subsequently tightened visa requirements for Maldivians and revoked a special quota for the import of aggregate and river sand.

The restrictions were lifted after President Abdulla Yameen assumed power in November 2013 after prolonged political turmoil.

Yameen also scrapped a waste management deal made with Tatva Global Renewable Energy External website that opens in a new window, but renegotiated a housing contract External website that opens in a new window made with Tata.

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