Chinese President Xi Jinping and Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu engaged in detailed discussions, resulting in the signing of 20 crucial agreements between the two nations. The agreements, covering areas such as tourism cooperation, disaster risk reduction, the blue economy, and digital economy investments, mark a new phase in the bilateral relationship. The leaders also announced the elevation of their ties to a Comprehensive Strategic Cooperative Partnership.
During President Muizzu’s state visit to China, both leaders expressed commitment to advancing their bilateral relations to a Comprehensive Strategic Cooperative Partnership. This move underlines the shared determination to strengthen cooperation across various sectors.
The signed agreements encompass a range of areas, including tourism cooperation, disaster risk reduction, blue economy initiatives, and measures to enhance digital economy investments. China has pledged grant assistance to the Maldives, although the specific amount remains undisclosed. Additionally, both nations agreed to accelerate the formulation of the Cooperation Plan on the Belt and Road Initiative.
President Muizzu, accompanied by his wife Sajida Mohammad, received a ceremonial red carpet welcome at the Great Hall of People in Beijing. A state banquet hosted by President Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan further highlighted the significance attached to the visit.
Despite the positive developments, President Muizzu’s visit is overshadowed by a diplomatic row with India. This discord stems from derogatory remarks made by Maldivian ministers against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Moreover, a recent EU Election Observation Mission report accused the ruling coalition in the Maldives of deploying anti-India sentiments and spreading disinformation during the 2023 presidential elections.
In the wake of cancellations of reservations by Indian tourists due to the diplomatic row, President Muizzu appealed to China to increase efforts to send more tourists to the Maldives. He acknowledged that, pre-COVID, China was the largest market for Maldives’ tourism, expressing a desire to restore that position.
China-Maldives bilateral trade in 2022 amounted to USD 451.29 million, with Chinese exports constituting the majority. President Muizzu also sought investments from Chinese companies for 11 projects during the Maldives Investment Forum.
President Muizzu’s discussions with Chinese Premier Li Qiang and other senior officials in the coming days are expected to further solidify the growing ties between the two nations. Despite the diplomatic challenges with India, the Maldives is actively pursuing avenues to strengthen its relationship with China, as reflected in the recent agreements and developments during this high-profile visit.