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Indian soldiers begin to withdraw from the Maldives, and the Maldives-China military agreement makes India uneasy

Indian media reported on Tuesday (March 12) that India has begun to withdraw the crew and related personnel of its military reconnaissance aircraft from the South Asian island country in accordance with the agreement reached with the Maldives. Just before the withdrawal of Indian soldiers, the new Maldives-China military agreement signed a “military aid” agreement with China last week.

The new president of the Maldives, Mohamed Muizzu, took office in September last year. After taking office, he immediately turned to China, the Maldives’ largest creditor, and asked India to withdraw its military personnel in the Maldives, including 25 Indian soldiers stationed in Addu Atoll (Addu), the southernmost tip of the Maldives.

The two sides reached an agreement after negotiations, and India will withdraw its 89 soldiers and logistics personnel from the Maldives. In addition, two Indian helicopters and one fixed-wing aircraft are still in the evacuation plan. The entire evacuation mission is planned to be completed within two months.

Last week, as Indian soldiers were gradually withdrawing, the Maldives reached an agreement to sign a military assistance agreement with China. The Ministry of Defense of the Maldives stated that the purpose of this agreement is to strengthen bilateral relations between the Maldives and China. China will send instructors to take charge of military training in accordance with the agreement.

The Times of India said that India has always been wary of China’s expansion of its power in the Indian Ocean and its increasing influence on the Maldives and neighboring Sri Lanka. Both countries are located on important international maritime shipping lanes.

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Since taking office, the Mohamed Muizzu government has actively promoted economic and diplomatic relations with China, and Mohamed Muizzu’s visit to China in January this year marked an important node in the development of this relationship. During Muizu’s visit to Beijing, he signed 20 agreements with Chinese President Xi Jinping, involving infrastructure, energy, shipping, agriculture, and many other fields. Muizu has previously stated that he has no intention to replace the Indian army with the Chinese army.

India announced last month that it would strengthen its naval forces stationed in the strategic Lakshadweep Islands. This archipelago is located approximately 130 kilometers north of the Maldives. The Indian Navy said that the Indian Navy stationed on the island of Minicoy will step up surveillance of the area.

The Maldives consists of 1,192 coral islands and is one of the world’s most famous tourist destinations. Its pristine beaches and azure lagoons are strategically located along key maritime routes across the world.

India has traditionally viewed the region with which it has close geopolitical ties as its “backyard.”

The “military aid” agreement reached between the Maldives and China has made New Delhi uneasy. The US news magazine “Newsweek” quoted Aditya Gowdara Shivamurthy, a senior researcher at the Indian government think tank “Observer Research Foundation,” as saying, “New Delhi views the defense agreement as an upgrade in relations between the two countries. .”

Shivamurthy pointed out that “the undisclosed details of the agreement will only exacerbate this suspicion. President Mohamed Muizzu has said that the agreement will provide training and other hardware help for Maldivian soldiers. However, Maldives National Defense Force personnel are being trained in China, so what we need to pay attention to now is whether China will send some soldiers to the Maldives in accordance with this agreement.”

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