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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Maldives President’s China Visit Raises Diplomatic Tensions

The president of the Maldives, Mohamed Muizzu, is set to pay a state visit to China from January 8 to 12, as announced by the Chinese foreign ministry. This visit is seen as a notable snub to India, the Maldives’ significant neighbor. President Muizzu, who took office in November, previously pledged to remove a small contingent of around 75 Indian military personnel from the country and shift the Maldives’ policy away from an “India first” approach.

India responded to inquiries about President Muizzu’s potential state visit to China, stating that it is for the Maldives to decide their international relations. The Indian Foreign Ministry spokesperson emphasized that there is no update on the removal of Indian military personnel from the islands.

While India and China vie for influence in the region, Muizzu’s government is perceived as leaning towards China. The Maldives owes approximately $1.3 billion to China, making it the largest external creditor, accounting for around 20% of the country’s total public debt.

Abhijit Singh, head of the Maritime Policy Initiative at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi, expressed concern over President Muizzu’s actions, indicating a distancing from India and a preference for a close relationship with China. The president’s choice to visit China before India is viewed as a clear signal of the current regime’s priorities.

Unlike his predecessors who typically visited India first after election, Muizzu’s initial international visit was to Turkey. He later met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the United Arab Emirates, where the two countries established a core group to discuss the withdrawal of Indian troops.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke with Maldivian Foreign Minister Zameer, reaffirming the United States’ commitment to strengthening cooperation with the Maldives as a key partner in a free, open, secure, and prosperous Indo-Pacific region.

For more updates stay tuned to FELA News

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