Underscoring the Maldives’ strategic pivot towards China, the island nation has entered into a military assistance agreement with China. This move, heralded by the Maldives’ Defence Ministry, involves China providing military aid gratis, aiming to bolster the Maldivian military capabilities. 

The agreement, signed by Defence Minister Ghassan Maumoon and Major General Zhang Baoqun of China, marks a crucial juncture in Maldives-China relations, reflecting the Maldives’ shifting geopolitical alliances under the presidency of Dr Mohamed Muizzu.

This military pact comes at a time when President Muizzu’s administration has notably distanced itself from India, a development manifested by the phased replacement of Indian military personnel with civilians. The realignment towards China, a trend initiated during Abdulla Yameen’s presidency with several mega projects, signifies a deeper strategic orientation towards Beijing, amidst deteriorating Maldives-India relations.

The context of this agreement is enriched by President Muizzu’s recent announcement of plans to deploy a system to monitor the Maldives Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). This EEZ, significantly larger than the nation’s landmass, has been under-monitored, impacting the Maldives’ economic and security sovereignty. 

The recent military agreements, including the acquisition of drones from Turkey and discussions with the United States for maritime security aid, align with Muizzu’s ambition to ensure round-the-clock surveillance of Maldivian waters and to assert a more autonomous stance in regional geopolitics.

However, this military-centric approach to national security has faced criticism. Opposition figures, like MP Eva Abdulla, argue against the militarisation of security solutions, advocating for diplomacy and peaceful relations as the means to safeguard the nation’s borders and stability. This perspective highlights concerns over the potential escalation of regional tensions, given the strategic importance of the Indian Ocean as a site of rivalry between India and China.

The military agreement with China, therefore, raises critical questions about the balance between enhancing national defence capabilities and maintaining regional peace and stability. It reflects a broader strategy by the Maldives to diversify its military and diplomatic ties, potentially redefining the power dynamics in the Indian Ocean. While aiming to fortify sovereignty and independence, the Maldives’ pivot towards militarisation and the realignment with global powers like China could invite scrutiny and geopolitical consequences, especially in relation to India and broader regional interests.