Maldives Deepens Ties with China Through Military Pact, Diverging Further from India

By manish198832 Mar6,2024

Maldives Deepens Ties with China

Maldives Deepens-Maldives made headlines this week with its announcement of a military pact with China, signaling a significant shift in its foreign policy and further distancing itself from India. The agreement, signed by the Maldivian Defense Ministry, stipulates that China will provide military assistance to the Indian Ocean archipelago. This move underscores the growing pro-China stance of the Maldivian government, particularly under the leadership of President Mohamed Muizzu, who assumed office last year.

Maldives Deepens

Maldives Deepens-Details of the military assistance remain undisclosed, but the Maldivian Defense Ministry clarified that the agreement was provided gratis, or free of charge. President Muizzu has been actively pursuing closer ties with China since his election, aligning with his “India Out” campaign promise to remove Indian troops from Maldivian soil and reclaim national sovereignty perceived to have been lost.

Maldives Deepens-The president set a deadline for the complete withdrawal of Indian military personnel stationed in the Maldives by March 15. Negotiations have been ongoing, with an initial withdrawal of troops scheduled before March 10 and the remaining to follow suit by May 10. Presently, there are 77 Indian soldiers and 12 medical personnel from the Indian armed forces in the Maldives. India has also provided two helicopters and a Dornier aircraft, primarily used for marine surveillance, search and rescue operations, and medical evacuations.

Maldives Deepens-This shift towards China marks a departure from the foreign policy of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, who had maintained closer ties with India. Historically, India has been the Maldives’ primary partner, owing to geographic proximity, shared economic interests, and historical ties. However, the Maldives has increasingly found itself caught in a geopolitical tug-of-war between India and China, both vying for influence in the region.

Maldives Deepens-China’s presence in the Maldives has been steadily growing, particularly through large-scale infrastructure projects like the China-Maldives Friendship Bridge, valued at $200 million. Analysts have noted that China’s expanding footprint in the Maldives could potentially impact Indian security, given the archipelago’s proximity to India’s western coast.

Maldives Deepens-President Muizzu’s visit to Beijing in January resulted in the signing of 20 agreements covering various areas such as infrastructure, trade, economy, green development, and grants. Among these agreements was approximately $127 million in aid aimed at developing roads in the capital, Male, and constructing 30,000 social housing units. During the visit, Muizzu hailed China as one of the closest allies and developmental partners of the Maldives.

In response to queries about the military pact, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson emphasized Beijing’s commitment to building a comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership with the Maldives. She reiterated that China’s cooperation with the Maldives was not aimed at any third party and would remain unaffected by external factors.

President Muizzu, in his presidential address on February 5, emphasized the need for the Maldives to strengthen its military capabilities. He announced plans for the defense force to achieve round-the-clock surveillance capabilities over the nation’s Exclusive Economic Zone, spanning approximately 900,000 square kilometers. Additionally, the government indicated its intention not to renew an agreement that allows foreign countries to conduct oceanic and coastal mapping in the Maldives.

The military pact with China represents a significant development in the Maldives’ foreign relations, with implications for regional dynamics. While the move strengthens ties with China, it also marks a departure from the country’s historical alliance with India. As geopolitical competition in the Indian Ocean region intensifies, the Maldives finds itself at the center of strategic maneuvering between two major powers.

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