Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) is a unified security organisation which is responsible for defending the security and sovereignty of the Maldives and has the primary task of all internal and external security needs of the Maldives, including the protection of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and the maintenance of peace and security. The main threats are in the maritime zone including intrusions, poaching and piracy. Counter terrorism has also emerged as a key task for the MNDF.
The 11,000 strong Maldives National Defence Force comprises principally of the Maldives Coast Guard, Marines and Special Forces. Led by the President as the Supreme Commander and the Defence Minister an Advisory Council, created under the MNDF Act, is chaired by the Chief of Defence Force to advice the Minister of Defence and the Chief of Defence Force on matters of policy regarding administrative and operational affairs of MNDF.
The Integrated Headquarters (IHQ), headed by the Chief of Defence Force and assisted by the Vice Chief of Defence Force and the Commandants of the 7 Services, is the highest military Headquarters of the MNDF and functions as the brain of the force. The IHQ exercises operational command authority over the subordinate operational echelons and formations and administers and manages the force through the Joint Staff Directorates. The primary staff functions of IHQ are directed and executed through the Joint Staff Directorates – which are responsible for formulating policies and strategies, developing doctrines, coordinating operations and directing service support activities of the MNDF at the IHQ level.
Organisation of Force
Given the geostrategic landscape, the archipelagic nature and the pressing defence and security needs of the country, the Maldives National Defence Force rationalizes its force structure through a unique lining up of its limited resources and personnel in an adaptable, flexible and a highly contextual manner.
The defence force caters for both military and civil defence of the country. The force structure of the MNDF consists of; (a) the combat and maneuver forces (Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Fire and Rescue Service), and is administratively, functionally and logistically supported by (b) the support services (Defence Intelligence Service, Service Corps, Adjutant General’s Corps, and Medical Corps). Every individual service person is recruited into, trained and equipped by one of these Services. Each service sets up and maintains the standards for its respective roles as a Corps, ensuring training, equipping and providing force for the joint operational and functional commands which carry out the broader missions of the MNDF.
The MNDF carries out its mission by conducting operations and activities within a joint operational framework. The geographic combatant commands (Area Commands) and the functional commands are manned by units/components and personnel assigned/attached/deputed from various services as demanded by their mission requirements.
Male' Area, Northern Area, Central Area and Southern Area are four subordinate areas of the MNDF. While the Area Commands undertake all operations as outlined in Range of Military Operations .
((1) Combat operations
(2) Security operations
(3) Emergency and Safety operations
(4) Military Aid to Civil Community and Military Aid to Civil Authority (MACC/MACA), this is done within the specified geographic area of operation (AOR).
On the other hand, functional commands are assigned with specialized functions of the MNDF such as special operations, training, special protection services, and welfare and recreation services.
Operations at the MNDF level are conducted and coordinated through the Joint Operations Center (JOC) under the Integrated Headquarters (IHQ). At the area command level, the Area Command Operation Center (ACOC) at each of the Area Command conducts and coordinates operations within the Area of Responsibility (AOR) of the Area Command. The JOC directs operational instructions to the ACOCs to carry out the operations of the MNDF.
India has been providing extensive assistance to Maldives in the training and organization of forces. In 2019, a technical agreement was signed by the two states on sharing White Shipping information between the Indian Navy and the MNDF. This agreement was part of a long-term commitment made by Prime Minister Modi during his state visit to the Maldives in June 2019. Training activities (including Ekatha, conducted in April 2019) have been implemented to build capacity in the MNDF. India has trained over 1250 MNDF trainees over the past 10 years and have offered 175 training vacancies in 2019‐20.
[Note: Basic details on MNDF in this section are as provided at the website of the organisation.]