President Dr Mohamed Muizzu has revealed that the drones recently introduced into the Maldives National Defence Force’s (MNDF) Air Corps were part of a grant aid from Türkiye. This announcement, made during a ceremony in Maafaru of Noonu Atoll highlights the deepening ties between the Maldives and Türkiye, emphasising the strategic partnership evolving between the two nations.

President Muizzu’s disclosure comes amid scrutiny and controversy surrounding the acquisition and deployment of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) by the MNDF. While the Maldivian government has been tight-lipped about the financial details of the drone procurement, the President’s acknowledgment of Türkiye’s donation offers a new perspective on the matter. 

The relationship between President Muizzu and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appears to be a cornerstone of this defence collaboration, with Erdogan’s invitation to Muizzu shortly after his election being a catalyst for these developments.

The specifics of the donation, including the number of drones gifted and their value, remain undisclosed. However, local media reports suggest a significant investment in the MNDF’s capabilities, with figures quoting the agreement to be around US$37 million. Despite requests for information under the Right to Information Act, the Defence Ministry has not provided further details, maintaining a veil of secrecy around the defence procurement process.

This initiative is part of a broader effort by the Maldivian government to enhance its military capabilities independently, moving away from reliance on foreign powers for national security. The acquisition of UAVs, some through purchase and others as donations from Türkiye, marks a pivotal moment in the Maldives’ pursuit of self-reliance in defence. President Muizzu’s administration has articulated ambitions to expand the MNDF’s assets, including doubling the Coastguard fleet, through partnerships with Türkiye and other friendly nations.

Critics and opposition parties have raised concerns about the transparency and fiscal responsibility of the drone acquisition process. Allegations of impropriety and financial mismanagement have been directed at the current administration, accusing it of using the defence procurement as a means to channel funds for political purposes. 

These claims, juxtaposed with the government’s emphasis on enhancing national security and sovereignty, present a complex narrative that merits further scrutiny.