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Maldives-China military pact: Muizzu says no Indian military will remain after May 10

Maldives-China military pact: Muizzu says no Indian military will remain after May 10

Amid heightened diplomatic tension with India regarding the removal of Indian military personnel from the Maldives, reports suggest that the Maldives and China have signed a defence cooperation agreement, through which the Maldives will receive free military assistance from China.

The defence cooperation agreement was signed on Monday between Maldives Defence Minister Mohamed Ghassan Maumoon and Major General Zhang Baoqun, Deputy Director of the Office for International Military Cooperation of China. The accord aims to foster "stronger" bilateral ties between the Maldives and China.

President Muizzu, known for his pro-China stance, has reaffirmed his commitment to expelling all Indian military personnel, stressing that not even those in civilian clothing will be allowed in the country after May 10.

This declaration follows a recent visit by an Indian civilian team to assume control of one of the three aviation platforms in the Maldives, a move that preceded the agreed-upon March 10 deadline for the withdrawal of Indian military personnel.

During a tour of the Baa atoll Eydhafushi residential community, President Muizzu addressed concerns about the presence of Indian troops, stating, "There will be no Indian troops in the country come May 10. Not in uniform and not in civilian clothing. The Indian military will not be residing in this country in any form of clothing. I state this with confidence."

Critics, however, argue that the Indian personnel sent as civilians are, in reality, military officials out of uniform, accusing the government of lacking the means to verify their status.

The strategic significance of the Maldives, located barely 70 nautical miles from India's Lakshadweep and at the hub of commercial sea lanes in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), has long made it a key maritime neighbour for India. The current developments raise concerns about the potential impact on regional stability and India's initiatives such as SAGAR (Security and Growth for All in the Region) and the Neighbourhood First Policy.

As tensions escalate, the Maldives' successful collaboration with Sri Lanka for medical evacuation flights indicates its determination to distance itself from Indian military presence, emphasizing the priority of achieving true independence and reclaiming control over its southern maritime area.

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