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Maldives-China defence: Maldives-China defence agreement to obtain non-lethal weapons and training, says President Muizzu

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The Maldives will get free “non-lethal” military equipment and training from China’s military under a newly inked agreement with Beijing, President Mohamed Muizzu has said, underlining that it would further strengthen the Indian Ocean island nation’s independence and autonomy. Muizzu also met Major General Zhang Baoqun, Deputy Director of the Office for International Military Cooperation of China, and President of the Export-Import Bank of China, Ren Shengjun separately.

Earlier on Monday, the Maldives Ministry of Defence announced that a military assistance agreement has been signed by Defence Minister Mohamed Ghassan Maumoon and Major General Zhang. However, it did not reveal any additional details.

This is the first time Maldives has signed a deal with China for military cooperation of this level. Previously, China had been exclusively known for its assistance towards urban and economic development of the Maldives, news portal Sun.mv said.

Speaking late on Tuesday evening with residents of Dhaalu atoll Meedhoo as part of his ongoing trip to the atoll, President Muizzu, who is widely seen as a pro-China leader, shared some details as he said that China and Maldives had always maintained military cooperation and that the only new development with this agreement is the assistance Maldives will be receiving to strengthen its military capacity.

“To obtain the different forms of training required by the Maldives’ military, and to be granted various non-lethal military equipment free of charge, that is what this agreement is about. This will increase the technical capacity of the defence forces,” news portal Edition.mv quoted the President as saying.

“We will then be able to further strengthen the defence forces. These things are being done so that we can stand on our own two feet so that we can have our autonomy and independence,” Muizzu added. Sun.mv further quoted the President as saying that the non-lethal weaponry would include tear gas, pepper spray and similar articles of weapons. Meanwhile, a release from the President’s office said Ren Shengjun paid a courtesy call on Muizzu on Tuesday morning.

Muizzu emphasised (on) China and Maldives’ close ties, noting that Maldives receives considerable support from EXIM Bank, the release said, adding, “Furthermore, the President highlighted several key developmental initiatives from China to the Maldives, including the China-Maldives Friendship Bridge and several social housing projects.”

During the meeting, the President of EXIM China stressed the historical ties, cooperation, and mutual respect between China and the Maldives and also acknowledged the Maldives’ early participation in the Belt and Road Initiative.

Ren affirmed the EXIM China’s readiness to foster positive collaborations with the Maldives, the statement said, adding that Muizzu and Ren Shengjun concluded the meeting with renewed commitment for future engagements.

In another statement, the President’s Office said, Major General Zhang Baoqun paid a courtesy call on President Muizzu at the President’s Office on Tuesday evening.

“The President expressed his gratitude to the Government of the Republic of China for its continued support and assistance to the Maldives. President Dr Muizzu and Major General Zhang Baoqun held comprehensive discussions on strategic partnerships and enhancing defence cooperation between the Republic of the Maldives and China,” the statement said.

The courtesy call concluded positively, with President Muizzu and Major General Zhang expressing enthusiasm for future collaborations and partnerships, it added.

The stepping up of military relations between the Maldives and China has come after President Muizzu has affirmed that no Indian military personnel, not even those in civilian clothing, would be present inside his country after May 10.

Muizzu’s statement comes less than a week after an Indian civilian team reached the Maldives to take charge of one of the three aviation platforms in the island nation, well ahead of the March 10 deadline agreed by the two nations for the withdrawal of Indian military personnel.

Soon after taking oath as the President of Maldives on November 17, Muizzu, widely seen as a pro-China leader, formally requested India to withdraw 88 military personnel from his country by March 15, saying the Maldivian people have given him a “strong mandate” to make this request to New Delhi.

In the presidential runoff held in September last year, Muizzu, 45, defeated India-friendly incumbent Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. Muizzu also visited Beijing in January and met Chinese President Xi Jinping and other leaders, in his first state visit to a foreign country. Previously, newly-elected Maldivian presidents used to make their first foreign visit to New Delhi.

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