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Amid Row With India, Maldives President Praises China's Belt & Road Plan

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Mohamed Muizzu, a seasoned politician, and statesman, has publicly commended the BRI for its role in delivering significant infrastructure projects across the Maldives. His endorsement underscores the tangible benefits that have materialized on the islands, enhancing connectivity and bolstering economic prospects.

Mr Muizzu is in China for a five-day state visit.

In the face of opposition criticism within his own country regarding his ministers' comments on India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President Mohamed Muizzu of the Maldives has characterized China as one of his nation's "closest allies and developmental partners." Currently undertaking a five-day visit to China, Muizzu underscored the significance of this being his inaugural state visit to a foreign nation, highlighting President Xi Jinping's controversial Belt and Road Initiative for delivering "significant infrastructure projects in the Maldives." While addressing the Invest Maldives Forum in Fuzhou and actively engaging Chinese investors, Muizzu, perceived as having close ties with Beijing, extolled the enduring and fruitful nature of government-to-government and business-to-business cooperation between the two countries.

As per a statement issued by the Maldives government, Muizzu emphasized the historical ties between the Maldives and China, tracing back to the ancient Maritime Silk Road. He noted that the archipelago nation became a participant in Xi Jinping's Belt and Road Initiative in 2014. Speaking about his vision for the expansion of the central airport and commercial port, President Muizzu expressed the government's eagerness to explore partnerships under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative. The statement also highlighted Muizzu's acknowledgment of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) signed between China and the Maldives. He cited the FTA as a significant driver for boosting bilateral trade and investments, particularly by increasing the export of fish products to China. This emphasis marked it as a key priority explored within the FTA.

Diplomatic Row

Mr. Muizzu's visit unfolds against a backdrop of internal dissent, with a Maldives Member of Parliament advocating for his removal, and another urging the Parliament to summon the foreign minister. This internal turbulence surfaced after Prime Minister Narendra Modi shared photos of his visit to Lakshadweep on January 4, suggesting that adventure enthusiasts consider adding the archipelago to their bucket list. In response, President Muizzu suspended three ministers for their derogatory remarks. Amidst these developments, Mariya Ahmed Didi, a former defense minister and a prominent figure in the Maldives' largest opposition party, the MNP, criticized the ruling People's National Congress for potentially straining an "age-old relationship" with India. Didi went further, characterizing India as her country's "911 call." The repercussions of these strained diplomatic relations manifested as New Delhi summoned the Maldives' envoy on Monday. Furthermore, several Indian tourists, representing the highest arrivals in the island nation in 2023, reportedly canceled their planned trips to the Maldives. The fallout extended to social media, with posts by numerous celebrities and cricketers contributing to #BoycottMaldives trending on Twitter. This unprecedented turn of events underscores the far-reaching implications of diplomatic tensions on tourism and international perceptions.