China says military delegation visited Maldives, Sri Lanka and Nepal

March 13, 2024 11:35 pm | Updated 11:36 pm IST - Beijing

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu attend a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China January 10, 2024.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu attend a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China January 10, 2024. | Photo Credit: Reuters

A Chinese military delegation recently visited the Maldives, Sri Lanka and Nepal to discuss further cooperation in defence issues, Beijing said on Wednesday.

Beijing is seeking to build closer ties in South Asia in a push to counter its strategic rival India for influence.

Last week, the Maldives said it had signed a "military assistance" deal with China after ordering Indian troops deployed in the small but strategically-placed archipelago to leave.

And Beijing confirmed on Wednesday that a delegation had visited the country and met with pro-China President Mohamed Muizzu during a trip that also took them to Sri Lanka and Nepal from March 4 to 13.

In all three countries, "they exchanged views on military relations and regional security issues of common concern", the Chinese military said in a statement on its official WeChat account.

The delegation of officials from the military's international military cooperation department focused on "in-depth consultations on promoting bilateral defence cooperation".

"A series of consensus was reached to further enriched defence cooperation between the PLA and the relevant countries," it added, referring to the Chinese military by its official acronym.

India is suspicious of China's growing presence in the Indian Ocean and its influence in the Maldives, a chain of 1,192 tiny coral islands stretching around 800 km across the equator, as well as in neighbouring Sri Lanka.

Both South Asian island nations are strategically placed halfway along key east-west international shipping routes.

Beijing also enjoys close ties with Nepal, led by Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, an ex-Maoist guerrilla known by his nom de guerre Prachanda.

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