Maldives won't return helicopters India had gifted, says new Defence Minister 

When the ceremony came to an end, President Solih extended a warm hug to PM Modi Photograph:( Twitter )

WION New Delhi, Delhi, India Nov 18, 2018, 11.00 PM (IST) Sidhant Sibal

24 hours after Ibrahim Mohamed Solih was sworn in as President of Maldives, new Defence Minister Mariya Didi told WION that Male won't be returning two Indian helicopters which New Delhi had gifted. 

Maldives, under Yameen, had asked New Delhi to take back the helicopters. 

Speaking to WION Didi said, "It’s not in our culture to ask neighbours to take back what they give." 

One chopper is deployed in the Indian Ocean nation's southernmost island of Addu and the other in the strategically-located Lammu, he said. 

The helicopters which were gifted in 2013 following a request from Maldives.

"The helicopters can be put to good use such as evacuations and search and rescue," he said. 

It's for the first time the new Maldivian defence minister spoke to any Indian media after taking charge.

"They were very useful in the past but with the development of adequate infrastructure, facilities and resources, we are in a position to handle medical evacuations on our own" former Maldives ambassador in India Ahmed Mohamed had told news agency Reuters. 

Yameen had junked pro India "India first policy" and increasingly aligned with China.

Former President Nasheed had indicated that China was responsible for the development and told WION a few months ago that Yameen was under pressure from "external forces to remove these helicopters".

Indian PM Modi was present at the oath-taking the ceremony of the new president on Saturday. The new President, in his first address after being sworn in had said, "We will endeavour to fortify existing ties with India. Maldives will hereupon bolster its shared role to retain enduring peace & harmony of the Indian Ocean."