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Maldives Strengthen Ties With China Amidst Tourism Tussle With India

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Following a campaign in which he painted China’s regional rival India as a threat to sovereignty, newly elected President Mohamed Muizzu of the Maldives upgraded ties with China on Wednesday during his first state visit to Beijing.

Speaking at the Great Hall of the People, Chinese President Xi Jinping referred to Muizzu as “an old friend” as the Asian behemoth agreed to a “comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership,” opening the door for additional investment in the Indian Ocean archipelago.

“China and the Maldives’ relations are facing a historic opportunity to carry forward the past and forge ahead into the future,” Xi told Muizzu, Chinese state media reported.

After winning on his “India Out” platform, wherein he described New Delhi’s enormous influence as a threat to sovereignty, Muizzu took office in November. Since then, his government has requested the departure of numerous Indian military personnel stationed locally while promoting investment opportunities for Chinese investors despite being heavily owing to Beijing.

Following the meeting, his presidential office released a statement saying that “20 key agreements between the two countries” had been signed. “During the talks, President Dr. Muizzu expressed gratitude for China’s significant role in the Maldives’ economic success… and infrastructure development,” the statement said.

According to World Bank data, the Maldives owes China $1.37 billion, or about 20% of its public debt, which puts Beijing ahead of Saudi Arabia and India, which it owes $124 million and $123 million, respectively, as its largest bilateral creditor.

Since the Maldives decided to join the Belt and Road Initiative in 2014, Chinese companies have made additional investments in the country totaling $1.37 billion, according to data from the American Enterprise Institute think tank.

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