An IDC Report


New Delhi, 26 April 2006

The Defence Minister, Mr Pranab Mukherjee handed over a fast patrol craft, INS Tillanchang, rechristened HURAWEE, to the Coast Guard of Maldivian Security Service on 16th April, where an IN OPV had towed it a few days earlier. The Indian Navy had also helped Maldives in the Tsunami disaster. India has begun to spread its influence in the Indian Ocean region in keeping with India's Maritime Doctrine –– of influence in its lake of responsibility –– already the IN has supported the Mauritius Coast Guard for years with ships and personnel, and sharing of Intelligence. In return Mauritius enjoys tax benefits on investment and is the largest conduit of investment. Most foreign Companies seek Mauritian registration.

Last year CNS Admiral Arun Prakash had handed over a small craft to Seychelles and India has MOUs with most of the littoral nations. Last month RM Pranab Mukherjee was in Oman to sign a Defence Agrement. India had transferred an OPV, INS Surayu to the Sri Lankan Navy, but because of Tamil Nadu politics and elections, India is now keeping clear of assisting Sri Lanka and the policy is still to evolve. There were reports that the Chinese had asked for facilities in Mouro Island of Maldives, which has a population of only 300,000.

The formal transfer took place at a glittering ceremony held in the Maldivian capital, the port city of Male. INS Tillanchang, named after an island in the Nicobar group, was built by Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers, Ltd, Kolkata. The ship was commissioned in 2001 and has rendered yeoman service to the Indian Navy while based at Port Blair, in the tri services Andaman and Nicobar command. The 300 ton craft is capable of attaining a top speed of 26 knots and has an endurance of over 7 days, covering a distance of approximately 2000 nautical miles. The ship will primarily be used for patrolling, policing and search and rescue missions in the vast areas of sea around the Maldivian chain of islands, considerably enhancing their capability against illegal poaching and drug trafficking.

The handing over ceremony was attended by a host of dignitaries, which included the President of Maldives
Mr Abdul Gayoom, the Defence Minister Mr Ismail Shaifeeu, the Foreign Minister Mr Abdul Shaheed, top officials from the Indian Ministry of Defence and Indian Navy and members of the diplomatic corps.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr Mukherjee stressed the “deep and enduring" relationship that the two countries have enjoyed and that is growing from strength to strength over the years. .He stated that "the two countries have a common perception on global issues of mutual concern. The prompt transfer of the patrol vessel, after the request was received from the Maldivian government, is just another manifestation of how much we value our relationship with them." Further, he said that India was willing to extend any assistance that would promote peace and security in
the Indian Ocean region, a prime prerequisite for ushering in development and prosperity in this part of the world. The Maldivian Defence Minister, while echoing similar sentiments, lauded the role of the Indian government in despatch of ships with relief supplies with "promptness and alacrity" to provide immediate succor to the affected people in the aftermath of the devastating tsunami in December 2004. He mentioned that the role of the Indian government in launching Operation Cactus in December 1988 was a defining moment in the relationship between the two countries and a landmark event in the history of their nation.

After the ceremony, Mr Mukherjee called on the President of Maldives and held high level interactions with their Defence and Foreign ministers which “reiterated firm commitment of both the countries to the development of privileged partnership''. During a joint press conference with the Indian Defence MInister later in the afternoon, the Maldivian Foreign Minister Dr. Shaheed stated that they had a “very, very strong friendship with India. In fact,
cooperation with India is the lynchpin of our external relationship.''

Maldives is an important member and partner of the Indian Ocean region and strategically located astride the vital sea lanes of communication in this part of the world. India's mutually beneficial relationship with the Republic of Maldives will not only secure its vital interests in the region, but also reinvigorate our ties with a key member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).

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