Maldives seals military pact with China as Indian troops leave

Maldives seals military pact with China as Indian troops leave

New president of island republic moving closer to Beijing as pledged

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu attend a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Jan 10. (Photo: CNS via Reuters)
Chinese President Xi Jinping and Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu attend a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Jan 10. (Photo: CNS via Reuters)

China has agreed to provide free military assistance to the Maldives, the island republic’s defence ministry said, signalling closer defence ties with Beijing just months after Indian troops were forced to leave the country.

The Maldivian Ministry of Defence signed an agreement with China to provide the assistance, it said on the social-media site X on Monday, adding it would foster stronger bilateral ties.

The post was accompanied by photos of a signing ceremony with defence officials from both countries. No specific details about the agreement were provided.

The move is the latest sign of closer ties between the the Maldives and China following the election in September of President Mohamed Muizzu, who campaigned on promises to reduce India’s influence on the country and draw closer to Beijing. 

Shortly after his visit to meet President Xi Jinping in Beijing in January, Muizzu made a formal request to India to withdraw troops from the island. India said last month that it would accede to the request by May 10.

India and China have alternately vied for influence over the Maldives, investing heavily in its infrastructure and extending loans. 

Maldivian media on Monday separately reported that China had also provided 12 “eco-friendly” ambulances to the Maldives, adding that the vehicles would improve healthcare access in remote islands.

A contentious Chinese research ship called at the Maldives on Feb 22 in another sign of the archipelago’s diplomatic reorientation.

Local residents told AFP that they had spotted the Xiang Yang Hong 3 at the Thilafushi industrial port near the capital Male. The 100-metre-long vessel was at an anchorage near Male, the website Marinetraffic subsequently confirmed.

The Maldives’ government said at the time that the vessel was docking for a port call to rotate crew and take on supplies, on the condition that it would not conduct “research” while in its territorial waters.

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