China and Maldives Ink Key Military Cooperation Agreement
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Abhijay Raj Vaish, Pune

Maldives signed a defence cooperation agreement with China on March 5 allowing China to offer free military service to the island nation. The move comes after Maldives’ diplomatic row with India where the Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu set a deadline of March 10 for the removal of the first group of the Indian military personnel present in the nation. 

The agreement has aided in strengthening the ties between the two nations amid strenuous relations with India. The Defence Minister of Maldives, Mohamed Ghassan Maumoon held a meeting with Deputy Director of the Office for International Military Cooperation of China, Major General Zhang Baoqun to forge and seal the agreement of military cooperation between the two nations. A ceremony was also conducted at the Ministry of Health where Wang Lixin, the Chinese ambassador to Maldives presented a letter gifting 12 eco-friendly ambulances to their new ally.

The move marks a significant pivot to the strategic position in the region impacting maritime research and security in the Indian Ocean area. Several reports in the Maldivian media point towards a suspicion of China planning a debt trap, thereby reducing Maldives’ sovereignty. The arrival of the Chinese Military Delegation in Maldives has come after India’s first technical civilian team reached the nation to replace the military personnel. The process of replacing the military personnel has been given a deadline of May 10 which is to be conducted in two phases. The visit has come a few days after Xiang Yang Hong 03, a Chinese research ship was allowed to make a port call for the rotation of its personnel. China had defended the move citing that the research is for peaceful purposes and conducted to scientifically understand the ocean. 

The Maldivian defence ministry posted on its X handle, that Maumoon and Major General Baoqun “signed an agreement on China’s provision of military assistance gratis to the Republic of Maldives, fostering stronger bilateral ties.”

Muizzu, who is considered to be a pro-China leader came to power in November 2023 post which the relations between India and Maldives have strained.