Male, Beijing upgrade relations amid pressing India-Maldives row
Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu – regarded as a pro-China leader – is currently in China amid a pressing India-Maldives diplomatic row after some Maldivian ministers posted derogatory remarks against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The ongoing tensions erupted recently as Modi released a series of photographs from his trip to Lakshadweep, highlighting “the stunning beauty” of the island. But nowhere in his post or his official statement did he mention the Maldives or any other island nation.
The row has triggered a spate of cancellations of reservations by Indian tourists – the group of people that constitute the largest number of visitors to the tourism-dependent Indian Ocean archipelago. India represented the largest tourist market for the country in 2023.
Maldives and China upgrade ties, sign 20 key agreements
Muizzu reached Beijing on Tuesday after staying in the Chinese city of Fujian for a couple of days. In his address to the Maldives Business Forum in Fujian Province, he appealed to China to “intensify” efforts to send more tourists to his country.
The Maldivian president and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping held discussions the next day in the capital and announced the elevation of bilateral relations to a comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership, according to state-run Xinhua news agency.
The two sides signed 20 key agreements, including on tourism cooperation, disaster risk reduction, blue economy, enhancing investment in the digital economy and the Belt and Road Initiative. China is also set to provide grant assistance to the Maldives.
Muizzu said China remains “one of our closest allies”
Muizzu and his wife Sajida Mohammad received a ceremonial red carpet welcome at the Great Hall of People. Later, Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan hosted a state banquet in their honour. The Maldivian leader is also expected to meet other senior officials before returning on January 12.
Muizzu said China remains “one of our closest allies and development partners”. He praised the BRI projects and described the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) signed by the Maldives and China in 2014 as a symbol of the close commercial ties between the two countries.
The derogatory remarks from the Maldivian ministers led to their suspensions. The government distanced itself from the row and stressed that the opinions are personal. The Maldives Association of Tourism Industry has also condemned the comments.