Maldives says welcomes friendly vessels as Chinese ship heads to Male | World News - Hindustan Times

Maldives says welcomes friendly vessels as Chinese ship heads to Male

Jan 23, 2024 11:18 PM IST

The Indian Navy has been tracking the Chinese vessel since it entered the Indian Ocean region through the Sunda strait in Indonesia on Monday.

The Maldives on Tuesday said that Chinese research vessel Xiang Yang Hong 03 would be making a port call at Male following a diplomatic request by Chinese government for the necessary clearances for rotation of personnel and replenishment.

Maldives president Mohammed Muizzu ( AFP)
Maldives president Mohammed Muizzu ( AFP)

“The Maldives has always been a welcoming destination for vessels of friendly countries and continues to host both civilian and military vessels making port calls for peaceful purposes,” the government of Maldives said in a statement.

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The development comes against the backdrop of a dramatic downturn in bilateral relations since the election victory last year of President Mohamed Muizzu, who has sought to move his country closer to China.

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The Indian Navy has been tracking the Chinese vessel since it entered the Indian Ocean region through the Sunda strait in Indonesia on Monday, officials aware of the development said on Tuesday.

The navy keeps a close watch on extra-regional activity in the Indian Ocean Region, especially the movement and presence of Chinese vessels. As part of its mission-based deployment model, the navy continues to position its warships along critical sea lanes of communications and choke points in the region.

The Chinese vessel would not be conducting any research while in the Maldivian waters, the Maldives said reacting to media reports regarding the port call of the Chinese Research vessel.

“Such port calls not only enhance bilateral ties between the Maldives and its partner countries, but also demonstrate the centuries old tradition of the Maldivian people welcoming vessels from friendly countries. The Maldives continues to uphold international best practices, and relevant international maritime law on all such cases,” the statement added.

The Chinese vessel is moving to Male after the Sri Lankan government denied permission for docking.

India last week said it was committed to taking forward its development agenda with the Maldives, at a time when the bilateral ties are under pressure following Muizzu's call for the withdrawal of all Indian military personnel deployed in the Indian Ocean archipelago by March 15.

"We remain committed to our projects and to taking them forward. We have been an important development partner of the Maldives. We remain committed to doing all things that we can do as a development partner of the Maldives," ministry of external affairs spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal said on January 18.

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Muizzu made the demand as the high-level core group set up by India and the Maldives held its first meeting in Male on January 14.

The next meeting of the core group set will be held in India soon. India and the Maldives agreed to set up the high-level core group when Muizzu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi met on the margins of COP28 in December.

Following his return from a visit to China, Muizzu announced a slew of measures apparently aimed at curtailing the Maldives’ dependence on India in key sectors such as healthcare and food security.

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