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India and Maldives begin major military exercise following restoration of special ties

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The inaugural ceremony of the December 6-19 exercise was held at the MNDF Central Area Command in L Kadhdhoo and attended by top Commanders of the MNDF (Images courtesy: ADGPI and MNDF)

The 11th edition of India-Maldives joint military exercise 'Ekuverin' has commenced at Laamu Kadhdhoo island of the country, highlighting the increasing bilateral defence cooperation between the two nations.

Held annually since 2009, the exercise is conducted by the Indian Army and the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) to gain experience and expertise in conducting counter-terrorism and counter-intelligence operations together.

The inaugural ceremony of the December 6-19 exercise was held at the MNDF Central Area Command in L Kadhdhoo and attended by top Commanders of the MNDF.

The training will mainly focus on operations in the sea and also involve land exercises in some uninhabited islands of Laamu Atoll.

Analysts point out that the exercise signals restoration of special ties between India and Maldives, which had drifted too close to China during the Presidency of Abdulla Yameen.

Addressing the participants of the exercise, including 43 soldiers from the 11th Battalion of Madras Regiment, Commander of MNDF Area Command Colonel Ibrahim Hilmy noted that the exercise would further strengthen the military ties between the two countries.

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India's defence ministry said that besides rigorous training, the joint military exercise will also include cultural and sports activities to enhance defence cooperation and bilateral relations.

"The exercise will go a long way in strengthening India’s relations with Maldives amidst emerging security dynamics in the Indian Ocean Region," said the ministry.
 
Military experts from both the countries are also participating in the exercise which showcases the increasing training engagements between the forces of India and Maldives.

Last month, Mariya Ahmed Didi, the Defence Minister of Maldives, had highlighted India's continued contribution to the professionalisation and operational capacity-building process of the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF).

"The defence cooperation partnership between Maldives and India is one that is based on equality, mutual trust and benefit and a deep desire to ensure the safety and security of both the nations, and by extension, the greater Indian Ocean Region," Didi had said as she became the first foreign Defence Minister to review the Passing Out Parade at the Indian Naval Academy (INA) in Ezhimala.

Also Read: Maldives Defence Minister sees bigger role for India in securing Indian Ocean Region