Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Maldives Inks Military Deal with China, Expels Indian Troops

The Maldives has entered into a “military assistance” agreement with China after directing Indian troops stationed in the strategically significant archipelago to depart, officials confirmed on Tuesday.

President Mohamed Muizzu, who came to power last year on an anti-Indian platform, ordered the expulsion of 89 Indian military personnel from the country by May 10.

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The Maldivian defence ministry announced the signing of an “agreement on China’s provision of military assistance” with Beijing late Monday, stating that the arrangement was “gratis,” but providing no further details.

The ministry cited the deal as a step to bolster “stronger bilateral ties,” as posted on the social media platform X.

India views China’s expanding presence in the Indian Ocean and its influence in the Maldives with suspicion. The strategic location of the archipelago, comprising 1,192 tiny coral islands stretching 800 kilometers (500 miles) across the equator, makes it strategically vital, along with neighboring Sri Lanka, both situated along crucial east-west international shipping routes.

Relations between Male and New Delhi have cooled since Muizzu’s victory in September, with the Maldives increasingly aligning with China, its largest external creditor.

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Muizzu, who visited Beijing in January and signed various deals, including infrastructure, energy, marine, and agricultural agreements, has denied seeking to alter the regional balance by bringing in Chinese forces to replace Indian troops.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning emphasized Beijing’s efforts to build a “comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership” with the Maldives, stating that cooperation does not target any third party and is not interfered with by third parties.

Meanwhile, India announced plans to reinforce its naval presence on the strategically important Lakshadweep islands, located approximately 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of the Maldives.

President Muizzu reaffirmed the departure of Indian troops from Maldivian soil by May 10 during a public rally, with India expected to replace military personnel with civilian staff to operate reconnaissance aircraft gifted by New Delhi.

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Last month, the Maldives permitted a contentious Chinese research ship to enter its waters, indicating a diplomatic shift towards Beijing and away from traditional ally India. Additionally, China donated 12 electric ambulances to the Maldives, as announced by the health ministry.

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Aarav Joshi
Aarav Joshi
Aarav Joshi is a seasoned content writer with a passion for covering worldly and international news stories. His journey in journalism began as a reporter for the BBC, where he honed his skills in researching and crafting compelling narratives. He has also contributed articles to 'The Times of India,' one of India's leading newspapers, delving into diverse topics ranging from politics and economics to culture and human interest stories.

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