Maldives not to renew agreement with India for hydrographic surveys

Male: Maldives will not renew an agreement with India to conduct hydrographic surveys and plans to acquire the facilities and machines required to do the exercise by itself, President Mohamed Muizzu has announced.Muizzu also announced that his country is working to establish a 24X7 monitoring system for the Maldivian waters this month to ensure control of its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) despite its significantly large area.

The development comes days after China signed a defence cooperation agreement with the Maldives to provide free military assistance to foster "stronger" bilateral ties.

India-Maldives ties have suffered a setback ever since pro-China Muizzu assumed office last year. Hours after he took oath in November 2023, Muizzu had vowed to ensure Maldives' sovereignty and one of the first steps was to demand India to withdraw all its troops.
Muizzu's announcement also comes days after a Chinese research vessel spent about a week around Male and more than a month just outside Maldives' EEZ.

Speaking at a ceremony at one of the islands that he was visiting on Monday, Muizzu said, the Maldives Ministry of Defence is making efforts to obtain the facilities required for conducting the hydrographic surveys by the country itself.

"This will allow Maldives to conduct the underwater surveys of the country by ourselves. We will then acquire all insights of our underwater features and prepare charts, they will be drawn by us," the president was quoted as saying by, a news portal on Tuesday.

Maldives' former administration, led by then President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, had signed an agreement with the Indian government to conduct hydrographic surveys of Maldives' underwater features.

�We decided not to renew the agreement entered into with the Indian government to scan and acquire all insights into our underwater bodies. All these underwater details are our property, our heritage,� Muizzu said and claimed the Maldives earlier needed to purchase all such maps and survey data from India.

This is the first time that Muizzu has publicly commented about the hydrographic survey plans of his government. His government has earlier announced that it reviewing more than 100 agreements signed with India by the previous regimes.

The most recent hydrographic survey carried out in collaboration with India's Hydrography Office was launched in January 2021 as part of the agreement signed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2019 during his visit to Maldives.

"The former President had obtained the approval of the parliament to facilitate this hydrography services in the Maldives and confer the facility to the Defence Ministry," the reported.

Meanwhile, two days earlier, Muizzu, while visiting yet another atoll on Saturday said, his government has vowed to begin work on and establish a 24X7 monitoring system of the Maldivian waters in March.

Speaking with the locals of Raa Meedhoo, the President highlighted that the area of sea is twice as large as the entire land mass of the Maldives and noted that the Maldives "has not been in control of its Exclusive Economic Zone despite its significantly large area."

"Although the EEZ is part of our territory, we did not have the capacity to monitor the area. God willing, our work (to monitor the Maldivian waters) will commence in March. We will establish a 24X7 monitoring system during this month,", a news portal reported, quoting the President.

The Maldives Coastguard currently seeks regular assistance from the militaries of neighbouring countries, and carries out some of the special patrolling operations with foreign allies, the news portal said.

( Source : PTI )
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