The Chinese ambassador to the Maldives, Zhang Lizhong, has denied that the Chinese government had ever made any demands from the Maldives that a Chinese military base be established in the Maldives. In a statement released today from the Chinese embassy, Ambassador Zhang stated that “We have no intention to establish any military base in Maldives, nor it is a precondition for normal military cooperation. China and Maldives have maintained friendly military cooperation and exchange of visits.”
This announcement from the Ambassador comes in response to Minister of Defence al-Ustaza Mariya Ahmed Didi’s appearance on the pro-government news channel RaajjeTV ; during which she had implied that granting China a “military base” was necessary to maintain security ties between the Maldives and China. The RaajjeTV appearance came shortly after the Nikkei Asian Review published a story which claimed that India had offered the Maldives a USD$1 billion loan in exchange for the permanent settlement of military personnel in the Maldives.
She had then proceeded to praise the Indian military, and had approved of their maintenance of the helicopters accompanied by 48 Indian military personnel stationed at Iskandhar Air Base in Laamu Atoll. The Minister of Defence had implied that these helicopters would be used in search-and-rescue missions and as an air ambulance. These helicopters were donated under a 2010 agreement between India and the Maldives, which also required that Maldivian pilots and mechanics be trained to handle and maintain the helicopters.
To date, no Maldivian has been trained by the Indian Armed Forces to do so. Multiple attempts made by the previous administration to return the helicopters and to remove the Indian military personnel from the Maldives have been in vain.
“In past years, China has provided dozens of training opportunities to MNDF personnel annually. China recently donated a fully-equipped sea ambulance to MNDF for rescue and medical purposes,” the statement from the embassy read. Ambassador Zhang’s statement mentioned the value of the Maldivian military.
“The Maldivian coast guard also provide assistance to the Chinese tourists in emergency. The friendly military cooperation is an important part of our all-round bilateral cooperation.”
This is not the first time that the Chinese embassy in the Maldives has had to deny allegations of military imperialism. In 2015, former president Mohamed Nasheed had alleged that large swathes of Laamu Atoll were set to be leased to the Chinese military for a period of 99 years. The Chinese embassy said that these allegations were “completely false” and denied that China maintained any military bases in foreign countries.