By Rahul Kumar
New Delhi, Aug 9: The US and the Maldives have kick-started the 'Tempest Wind 2022' joint counter-terrorism exercise from August 7 to 18. These are being held in capital Male and the central Maldives as planned by the Maldives Defence Force (MNDF).
The focus of the exercise is to train Maldivian and Hawaiian forces on counter-terrorism strategies, explore areas of improvement as well as improve emergency counter-terrorism operations. The exercise is significant for the government of President Ibrahim Solih, who has laid much emphasis on battling radicalisation and countering extremism in the archipelago.
Dr Gulbin Sultana, Research Analyst at the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, told India Narrative: "Countering radicalism and extremism is not only a priority with the Solih government but is also a transnational issue. The military exercise will help the country expand and improve its readiness to counter terrorism and extremism".
Sultana adds that such an interaction will help the Indian Ocean country to become efficient in countering threats that may emanate within the Indian Ocean region.
"Maldives even has the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) that coordinates counter terrorism and violent extremism efforts besides analysing intelligence related to terrorism and violent extremism", she adds.
Male and Washington are improving relations with the US planning to open an embassy in the Maldives. In April this year, the two nations also signed the Montana National Guard State Partnership Program to strengthen defence and security cooperation.
Giving an insight into how their relations are improving in strategic areas, Sultana said: "The two nations had signed the 'Framework for a Defence and Security Relationship' in September 2020 to strengthen cooperation over peace and security in the Indian Ocean. Even India had shown approval for this agreement as it had once objected to the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) which the US wanted to cement with the Maldives. However, as there was disquiet within the Maldives also, the SOFA agreement was dropped".
After having cemented their defence and security relationship, the two nations are exploring cooperation in the fields of cyber defence and communication security, aviation security operations, operational logistics and chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, environmental defence and response.
Under the Solih government, the Indian Ocean nation has been seeking support of other nations including India as well as international agencies in important investigations-like the assassination attempt on former Maldivian president Mohammed Nasheed in an effort to keep extremism under control.