India and its Indian Ocean neighbour Maldives have begun a joint army training exercise that is aimed at enhancing the close military ties between the two nations.
The fortnight-long exercise, codenamed Ekuverin-2012, is being held at Belgaum in Karnataka.
A total of 45 personnel from the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) are taking part in the fourth edition of the exercise along with an equal number of personnel from the Indian Army.
Ekuverin series, which began in 2009 in Belgaum, are alternately held in India and Maldives.
“The aim of the exercises is to enhance the close military cooperation between the two countries.
Defence ties between India and Maldives have continued to expand and strengthen over the years.
In April 2012, both countries, along with Sri Lanka, held joint coast guard/naval exercises — Dosti-XI — off the coast of Male, Maldives capital, to strengthen the bonds of friendship and enhance mutual operational capability and cooperation in the region.
Antony held talks with his Maldivian counterpart, Colonel (retired) Mohamed Nazim, in the capital Male and discussed a host of security-related issues, including counter-terror cooperation. In this regard, the two sides had then agreed to hold the next joint army exercise, Ekuverin, in November 2012.
Antony also conveyed India’s readiness to position the Indian Advanced Light Helicopter Dhruv helicopter, operating in Maldives since 2010, for another two years.
There were also proposals in the area of training. India will be sending a team of qualified flying instructors to train Maldivian Air Wing personnel and provide simulator training to Maldivian helicopter pilots at Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd., Bangalore.
Antony’s three-day visit to the Maldives acquires an added significance in view of China’s enhanced forays into the strategically-located island nation. In November last year, China opened a grand embassy in Male, signalling Beijing’s strategic intent to intensify relations with the Maldives.
Having realised its responsibility for peace, security and stability in the Indian Ocean region, India had already initiated measures such as a coastal radar chain in the Maldivian atolls, linking it up with the Indian radar chain, so that a comprehensive security could be provided to the nation that is close to Indian island territory of Lakshadweep.