(Bloomberg) -- China agreed to provide free military assistance to the Maldives, the island’s defense ministry said, signaling closer defense ties with Beijing just months after Indian troops were forced to leave the country. 

The Maldivian Ministry of Defence signed an agreement with China to provide the assistance, it said on the social-media site X on Monday, adding it would foster stronger bilateral ties. The post was accompanied by photos of a signing ceremony with defense officials from both countries. No specific details about the agreement were provided. 

The move is the latest sign of closer ties between the Maldives and China following the election in September of President Mohamed Muizzu, who campaigned on promises to reduce India’s influence on the country and draw closer to Beijing. 

China’s Foreign Ministry said Tuesday the country is “committed to building a comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership” with the Maldives. 

“The cooperation doesn’t target any third party and shouldn’t disturb any third party,” the ministry’s spokeswoman Mao Ning said at a regular press briefing in Beijing. China’s Defense Ministry didn’t immediately reply to a faxed request for comment.

Shortly after his visit to meet President Xi Jinping in Beijing in January, Muizzu made a formal request to India to withdraw troops from the island. India said last month it would accede to the request by May 10. India and China have alternately vied for influence over the Maldives, investing heavily in its infrastructure and extending loans. 

Maldivian media on Monday separately reported that China had also provided 12 “eco-friendly” ambulances to the Maldives, adding that the vehicles would improve healthcare access in remote islands. 

--With assistance from Allen Wan and Philip Glamann.

(Adds comments from Chinese Foreign Ministry briefing.)

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