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China to give military aid, training to Maldives forces: President Muizzu

12:59 AM Mar 07, 2024 IST | SURINDER SINGH OBEROI
china to give military aid  training to maldives forces  president muizzu
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New Delhi, Mar 6: China has pledged military aid and training to the Maldives, as announced by Maldivian President Dr Mohamed Muizzu during a rally in Dhaalu atoll Meedhoo on Tuesday evening.

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President Muizzu revealed that the Chinese government is prepared to offer training to the Maldivian army and provide non-lethal weaponry through a military grant. It will be the first time that the Maldivians military will be having training from the Chinese. Previously, China had primarily been associated with supporting the Maldives' urban and economic development efforts.

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Highlighting the significance of the agreement between the Maldives and China, President Muizzu stressed the country's aspiration for self-sufficiency in sovereignty. The agreement, he noted, will not only facilitate military training but also bolster the technical capabilities of Maldivian military personnel. The non-lethal weaponry covered in the agreement includes tear gas, pepper spray, and similar items.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defence confirmed that Major General Zhang Baoqun, Deputy Director of the Office for International Military Cooperation in China, held discussions with Maldives' Defence Minister Ghassan Maumoon to explore avenues for enhancing defence cooperation between the two nations.

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Major General Zhang Baoqun also paid a courtesy visit to President Dr Muizzu, with both sides engaging in discussions aimed at strengthening military cooperation. This marks the first time that the Maldives has entered into such a comprehensive military cooperation agreement with China.

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This development marks a shift from previous military agreements with India under the former MDP government, which faced criticism and protests from the opposition, now the ruling parties.

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During the meeting of the India-Maldives High-Level Core Group in New Delhi on February 3, India agreed to replace military operators with civilian experts in the operation of two helicopters and a Dornier aircraft in Maldives. Both nations had reached a consensus on feasible solutions to ensure the uninterrupted operation of Indian aviation platforms, particularly for humanitarian and medical evacuation services in Maldives.

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The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Maldives outlined that India will replace military personnel in one of the three aviation platforms by March 10, 2024, and complete the replacement in the other two platforms by May 10.

Additionally, discussions during the meeting addressed expediting the implementation of ongoing development cooperation projects, with the next High-Level Core Group meeting scheduled in Male' during the last week of February.

Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu has escalated tensions between his country and India by announcing a ban on Indian troops, including those in civilian attire, from Maldivian soil after May 10.

This signifies a departure from what was decided in the last official meeting in New Delhi in the first week of February. In addition, it is a complete Pro China stance and the Chinese military is likely to increase its boots in Maldives.

One never knows if, in the long run, China try to create a naval base in the Maldives as visible moves in November 2023 by the new President significant shift in the Maldives' foreign policy orientation towards strengthening ties with China. India in their budget has allocated 600 million crore Indian Rupees (USD 72 million) as grant assistance for Maldives, covering the projected state budget from March 2024 to April 2025 despite escalating political and diplomatic challenges in Maldives

This geopolitical realignment and foreign policy shift by the Maldivian government carry profound implications for regional stability and the balance of power in the Indian Ocean region. The escalating tensions between the Maldives and India underscore the complexities of navigating geopolitical dynamics in the strategically vital Indian Ocean.

In another development, the Maldivian government has initiated an investigation into a case involving the disappearance of USD 3.6 million, deposited by the former Maldivian Democratic Party-led government to an Indian company for the construction of police stations across various islands.

The local newspaper said that the Ministry of Homeland Security and Technology submitted a case to the police, shedding light on the agreement made with India's Indira Project Joint Venture Company for the construction of 61 police stations under a USD 41 million project.

Minister Ali Ihusan disclosed that despite an initial agreement for 85 per cent of the project's funding to be provided by India's Exim Bank and the remaining 15 per cent by the Maldivian government, the Exim Bank later declined to extend the loan.

Despite notifications from Exim Bank regarding the loan extension denial, the government disbursed USD 3.6 million to the company, which remains unaccounted for. Minister Ihusan stated that the Ministry of Finance notified the Maldives Police Services about the situation, and the matter is now under police investigation. Additionally, the joint company responsible for the project has reportedly been dissolved.

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