India has refuted claims made by Maldivian Defence Minister Ghassan Maumoon regarding an alleged unauthorised operation of an Indian helicopter in the Maldives. Ghassan had alleged that Indian military pilots conducted a flight without the necessary permits and landed in Thimarafushi, Thaa Atoll, without authorisation.

The High Commission of India in the Maldives responded on Tuesday, stating that Indian aviation platforms in the Maldives have always operated according to agreed procedures and with proper authorisation. The commission specifically addressed the incident on 9 October 2019, explaining that the emergency landing at Thimarafushi was due to unforeseen exigencies and was conducted with necessary approvals from Air Traffic Control (ATC) to ensure the safety of the platform and crew.

The controversy emerged during a press conference on 11 May, where Ghassan mentioned that the Parliament’s Committee on National Security Services had reviewed the incident. He claimed the helicopter operated without Maldivian authorisation, prompting concerns about the control and command over military aircraft in the Maldives.

Chief of Defence Force Major General Ibrahim Hilmy acknowledged the incident but emphasised it was an isolated case. He noted that both the Ministry of Defence and the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) had maintained control over aircraft operations, countering allegations of unauthorised flights at the time.

This comes a week after the Maldives government announced the replacement of the Indian military personnel operating the helicopters with civilian experts from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. This change aimed to ensure MNDF’s complete control over the aircraft.

The Indian High Commission reiterated that all Indian aviation operations in the Maldives are conducted with proper authorisation, with a focus on maintaining the safety and security of both operations and personnel.