The Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) has said its Coastguard has been unable to determine the nationality of foreign troops involved in the recent boarding of several Maldivian fishing vessels. This development follows Wednesday’s incident where foreign naval officers allegedly boarded and interrogated crew members of at least three fishing vessels within the Maldives’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

A media official from the MNDF informed local media that the foreign troops had left the area by the time the Coast Guard reached the vicinity of the ‘Asurumaa 3’ fishing vessel. The inability to confirm the nationality of the foreign troops adds a layer of complexity to an already tense situation, marked by escalating diplomatic tensions between the Maldives and India.

Initially, the Bodu Kanneli Masveringe Union (BKMU), which represents yellowfin tuna fishermen, had claimed that the naval vessel involved was Indian. This claim came amid accusations of foreign naval officers spending around two hours aboard one of the Maldivian vessels, specifically targeting ‘Asuruma-3’, ‘Neru-7’, and ‘Maahoara-3’. The operation was allegedly focused on interrogating the crew about their satellite phone usage, a contentious issue in Indian waters, though the incident occurred outside Indian jurisdiction.

The MNDF’s latest update underscores the ongoing challenges in resolving this diplomatic and security dilemma. Minister of Fisheries and Ocean Resources Ahmed Shiyam had earlier expressed concern over the incident on social media, emphasising the gravity of foreign military personnel boarding and questioning Maldivian fishermen within their own EEZ.

Responding to these developments, the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) had called for an immediate and high-level investigation. The party has urged the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to engage with the governments of Sri Lanka and India to clarify their potential involvement in the incident. Additionally, the MDP called upon the MNDF to expedite its investigation and take measures to ensure the safety and sovereignty of Maldivian territorial waters.