Maldives signs defense deal with China amid rift with India

Maldives officials said on Tuesday they have ordered Indian troops to leave the archipelago and signed a “military assistance” deal with China.

The Maldives Minister of Defense and a senior Chinese military official “signed an agreement on China’s provision of military assistance gratis to the Republic of Maldives, fostering stronger bilateral ties,” according to a statement from the Ministry of Defense on X, formerly Twitter.

India and Maldives had historically enjoyed good relations, which turned sour after pro-China President Mohamed Muizzu came to power on an “India Out” platform in last year’s elections.

The islands, which lie in a strategically important position halfway along major east-west shipping routes, have long been considered by India as part of its sphere of influence in the Indian Ocean.

Rift between India and Maldives

The Indian military will complete a full withdrawal of around 89 troops, who were asked to leave by Muizzu.

The troops, who had been deployed to help operate three reconnaissance aircraft, given by India to the Maldives to monitor its maritime borders, are expected to leave by May 10.

India is expected to start replacing the military personnel with civilian staff to operate the aircraft.

Last week, the Indian navy announced it would boost “operational surveillance” from the island of Minicoy in the Lakshadweep islands, which lie about 130 kilometers north of the Maldives.

Last month, a Chinese marine research vessel Xiang Yang Hong 03, had been given permission to dock in the Maldives. Muizzu also signed a series of infrastructure, energy and agricultural deals with China during a visit to Beijing in January.

India has been wary of China’s growing influence in the Indian Ocean, including Maldives and Sri Lanka.

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