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Explained: What Maldives’ new police academy means for bilateral security cooperation with India

In addition to the inauguration of this academy, an MoU was signed between the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Police Academy in Hyderabad and the Maldives Police Service.

India’s External Affairs Minister Dr. S Jaishankar with Maldives President Ibrahim Solih, during the former's two-day official visit to Maldives Photo credit: Twitter/DrSJaishankar

India’s External Affairs Minister Dr. S Jaishankar is on a two-day official visit to the Maldives till March 27, where he will be engaged in the review of the progress of various areas of bilateral cooperation between the two countries. On the agenda is also the inauguration of the National College of Policing and Law Enforcement (NCPLE) in Addu City, in the southernmost atoll of the Indian Ocean archipelago, that was established under Indian grant assistance.

In his speech addressing President Ibrahim Solih, Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid, Maldives Commissioner of Police Mohamed Hameed and other government officials Sunday, Jaishankar mentioned how the establishment of the police academy had, till recently, been India’s largest grant-funded project prior to the Greater Male Connectivity Project for which India extended a $400 million line of credit in 2020.

In addition to the inauguration of this academy, an MoU was signed between the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Police Academy (SVPNPA), the prestigious training institute in Hyderabad, and the Maldives Police Service. “(It) will be a springboard for the NCPLE to grow its capacities through training and the development of its curriculum. Aware of the importance of this training for the MPS (Maldives Police Service), we have increased the number of training slots for the Maldives at our police academy to 8,” said Dr. Jaishankar in his statement.

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What was the need for the academy?

The establishment of this police training academy had been in the works for a long time, with the first announcement having been made in 2015 during the presidency of Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom. But as with almost all projects that involved India, this too faced delays till the government changed in 2018 and President Solih took office.

On the domestic level in the Maldives, the training academy would help strengthen law enforcement abilities and counter drug trafficking, a major concern in the country, sources familiar with the project told indianexpress.com.

“Defence security cooperation between India and the Maldives has been happening for some time now and a large number of their personnel travel overseas for training, including to India,” said Dr. Gulbin Sultana, a research analyst at the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, whose area of research includes the Maldives. The establishment of this institution needs to be understood from the larger perspective of bilateral defence cooperation between India and the Maldives, she said.

Dr. Sultana pointed to the Colombo Security Conclave, a trilateral maritime security grouping of India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives, where intelligence sharing is also a part of this trilateral security cooperation. All three countries face common security challenges, particularly maritime security issues, making these kinds of joint exercises and cooperation important.

How will the academy help?


A perusal of joint statements issued by the Maldives and India over the past few months indicate that one of the key areas of focus and concern for both countries is preventing and countering violent extremism as well as de-radicalisation. One of the objectives of this training academy in Addu City is to address those challenges and enhance cooperation between the two countries in tackling these issues, Dr. Sultana said.

“Radicalisation is a serious problem for the Maldives. They don’t have a designated domestic terror group, but radicalisation is an issue,” she explained.

Radicalisation is not a new challenge that the Maldives has been tackling, but the bomb attack on former president Mohamed Nasheed in May last year has put the issue into sharper focus and has become a pressing concern. According to a report by Dr. Amit Ranjan at the National University of Singapore’s Institute of South Asian Studies, this attack on Nasheed “clearly indicates that radical groups are actively advancing their position in the Maldives. Radical ideology has strengthened itself in the Maldives and has, in the recent past, been assisted by state institutions.”


Experts say that countries in the Maldives’ neighbourhood cannot simply relegate the growing radicalisation as a domestic issue, because it has the potential to spill over into their territories, causing instability and havoc. Dr. Ranjan writes that although the Solih government has taken several measures to deal with this growing problem, it hasn’t been very effective. This is where the National College of Policing and Law Enforcement and advanced training programmes may help the Maldives and be of importance to the wider South Asia region.

How is the Maldives handling radicalisation?

According to a 2020 report by the European Foundation for South Asian Studies, the Maldives has become the country with the highest rate of foreign fighters per capita in the world. The report pointed to a disclosure by the Maldives Commissioner of Police Mohamed Hameed in December 2019, that there could be close to 1,400 Islamist extremists in the Maldives who adhere to ISIS ideology and that some 423 citizens had attempted to travel to war zones in Iraq and Syria of which 173 had succeeded.

There are several factors behind these high numbers of radicalised individuals in the Maldives, Dr. Sultana said, which is a cause for concern for other countries in the region. This issue involves an intersection of domestic security and political issues and the Solih government has struggled to deal with it.

“The (ruling) Maldivian Democratic Party-led government has had domestic issues tackling this issue of radicalisation. It is known for its secular approach, but it is in coalition with the Adhaalath Party and others. So what happens is that the laws that they want to pass on counter-terrorism and radicalisation are difficult,” said Dr. Sultana.

The Maldives is headed towards one of its most contentious elections in 2023-2024 and political parties are concerned that if they push for certain measures, they will be considered non-Islamic, she added. “Just like Nasheed is facing problems because of his lifestyle. These kinds of things impact domestic politics.”


There is no suggestion that the National College of Policing and Law Enforcement will single-handedly curb the complex security challenges that the Maldives is facing, but experts believe that it may be a start.

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First published on: 27-03-2022 at 04:05:01 pm
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