Maldives and China Ink 20 Deals Amidst Diplomatic Tensions with India

Maldives and China Ink 20 Deals Amidst Diplomatic Tensions with India

Mohamed Muizzu expressed his honor in making his inaugural official visit to China, noting that he is the first foreign head of state hosted by China this year.

“Beijing: Chinese President Xi Jinping engaged in extensive discussions with his Maldivian counterpart Mohamed Muizzu on Wednesday, leading to the signing of 20 significant agreements, including one focused on tourism cooperation. Both leaders also declared the elevation of their bilateral ties to a comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership.

Muizzu expressed his honor during his first state visit to China, emphasizing that he is the first foreign head of state hosted by China this year. This underscores the mutual importance both nations place on the development of their bilateral relations.

President Xi emphasized China’s respect and support for the Maldives in charting a development path suited to its national conditions. He affirmed China’s firm support for the Maldives in safeguarding its national sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity, and national dignity, as reported by the official Xinhua news agency.

The bilateral ties were formally elevated to a Comprehensive Strategic Cooperative Partnership, with the signing of 20 key agreements covering various areas such as tourism cooperation, disaster risk reduction, the blue economy, and enhanced investment in the digital economy. The specifics of China’s grant assistance to the Maldives were not disclosed.

Among the agreements are joint efforts to accelerate the formulation of the Cooperation Plan on the Belt and Road Initiative, the social housing project on Fushidhiggaru Falhu, fisheries product processing factories, and the redevelopment of Male’ and Villimale’ Roads Development Projects.

Despite the diplomatic row with India over derogatory remarks by Maldivian ministers and an EU report criticizing the ruling coalition’s anti-India sentiments during the 2023 presidential elections, Muizzu’s visit to China saw the strengthening of ties. The visit included ceremonial welcomes, a state banquet hosted by President Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan, and discussions on governance exchange and development strategies.

President Xi expressed China’s readiness to support more Maldivian students studying in China and to promote increased direct flights between the two countries. Muizzu affirmed the Maldives’ commitment to the one-China policy and highlighted mutual support in safeguarding national sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity as a solid foundation for the development of Maldives-China relations.

Amid the diplomatic tensions with India leading to cancellations of reservations by Indian tourists, Muizzu appealed to China to intensify efforts to send more tourists to the Maldives. The visit also coincides with preparations for parliamentary polls in March, where Muizzu will compete against the opposition.

The Maldives, heavily dependent on tourism, faced backlash from Indian tourists following derogatory comments by government officials. Muizzu’s government took action by suspending three deputy ministers, and the Maldives Association of Tourism Industry condemned the comments.

Despite these challenges, Muizzu sought Chinese investments for 11 projects at the Maldives Investment Forum, reinforcing the significance of China-Maldives bilateral relations. China-Maldives bilateral trade in 2022 reached USD 451.29 million, with China’s exports constituting the majority. Muizzu’s appeal for more Chinese tourists aims to restore China’s position as the Maldives’ top tourism market.”

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