This is necessary, the letter says, as the formal exchange of diplomatic notes takes time and may not be possible to complete until the next military exercises. «However, as our training programs increase in scale and complexity. It is very important that India and the United States take into account the impact on legal status in the event of an accident or unfortunate incident. The Maldives government is also currently facing an ongoing campaign by the PPM-PNC opposition Alliance to put it in the nails in defence relations with India. This campaign largely began after India gained access to a Dornier plane with which the opposition launched an «India Out» campaign. Last Sunday, the head of the Maldives Armed Forces held a press conference during which he stated categorically that «no foreign force is present in the archipelago». The concerns expressed in both India and Sri Lanka following the notification and publication by a Maldivian news site of an allegedly leaked copy of the eight-page draft SOFA agreement are well founded. A status-of-forces agreement, which provides a pillar for US forces in the heart of the Indian Ocean, is not a pleasant prospect for Asia. Sofa, in its current form, will have a significant impact on the safety and circulation of oil and gas in the Indian Ocean. It can only be signed after discussions with other neighbouring countries. Mariya Didi, Minister of Defense of the Maldives, and Reed Werner, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense for South and Southeast Asia, sign the U.S.-Maldives Defense Framework Agreement. Photo: Ministry of Defence, Maldives M.

Jaishankar, according to the cable, agreed with the point, but said that if the U.S. presents a SOFA agreement at that time, it could complicate efforts to conclude the Acquisition and Cross-Service Agreement (ACSA). «In September 2001, your predecessor Jayant Prasad gave us oral assurances that the United States could rely on legal coverage without formal agreement,» he wrote to MEA Joint Secretary S. Jaishankar. «What we are essentially looking for at this stage are MEA assurances that all U.S. DoD employees sent to India for training purposes will still receive diplomatic protection equivalent to the administrative and technical staff of the U.S. Embassy.» The enthusiasm generated by the New Delhi agreement on the U.S.-Maldives defense pact stands in stark contrast to the circumstances in which the U.S. recently proposed a defense agreement with the Maldives. The presidency and the Ministry of Defence in the Maldives have denied having any information about the agreement. However, opponents were waiting for the issue to finally be referred to Parliament`s National Security Committee. Articles VIII and X, which allow U.S.

ships and aircraft carriers to move freely in and out of Maldivine waters, are the most concerning, however. The agreement makes it clear that U.S. military personnel will be fully armed and will be able to exercise command of all types of ships, including nuclear-powered aircraft carriers. The DCM reiterated the attaché`s argument about the increasing complexity of the current exercises. «Exercise Malabar in late September, for example, would for the first time involve carrier fighting groups and involve hundreds of American sailors. DCM also noted that the U.S. has sofa with all of its major military partners around the world and that every aspect of the agreement is reciprocal. «However, Indian officials told The Wire that New Delhi supports the deal because there is a clear signal about the Maldives` position in the Indian Ocean region.» It couldn`t be clearer that the Maldives says it is part of the indopazive,» one official said, using the term in its political sense. No part of the territory of the Maldives may be given to a foreign person or party for military use for a certain period of time without the consent of the Majlis people.

The proposed SOFA will not be able to see the light of day if it is not modified and made less draconic.. . .