The search for 18-year-old Mohamed Naeesh Nasr, who disappeared while diving for lobsters off Gan in Addu City, continues with heightened urgency as the operation enters a fourth day. The Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF), conducting extensive searches by air and sea, has so far covered significant areas: 279 square nautical miles by air, 300 square nautical miles by sea, and a 600-meter area by diving. However, the efforts have been complicated by a controversial decision regarding the aircraft used in the operation.

Departing from standard procedure, the MNDF is using an aircraft from the Maldivian Aviation Academy instead of the Dornier aircraft traditionally operated by Indian forces. This shift in resources aligns with recent political actions by President Mohamed Muizzu to reduce Indian military involvement in local matters, including a request for the withdrawal of Indian troops.

The main opposition Maldives Democratic Party (MDP) has expressed concern over this change. The MDP, emphasising the high success rate of previous joint operations with foreign countries, has called for the utilisation of all available resources, including the India-gifted aircraft, to aid in the search for Naeesh. 

The party stresses that 3,452 people were rescued in 1,996 joint operations due to the effective use of these resources. Criticising the government’s approach, the MDP views the failure to use available resources as a potential obstacle to the success of the operation and an instance of putting a political agenda above a citizen’s life.

On the ground, the MNDF has not provided a specific reason for not using the India-gifted Dornier aircraft. This decision has raised questions, particularly after a social media post showed the flight pattern of the Aviation Academy aircraft, leading to doubts about its suitability for such operations. 

The MNDF media official, when questioned about the equipment and capabilities of the Aviation Academy plane, said he would need to check. The President’s Office, through spokesman Mohamed Shaheeb, clarified that the government has not ordered a halt to the operations of the Dornier aircraft and helicopters. Naeesh, described as an experienced swimmer and a 12th-grade student, was last seen wearing a white T-shirt and was reportedly pulled away by strong currents while lobstering with friends near Feydhoo ‘fasgandu’ area. He went missing on 21 December amid inclement weather conditions, with two companions managing to reach the shore around 10 p.m. and immediately reporting the incident.