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Maldives’ President Forges ‘Closer Ties’ with China Despite Past ‘India First’ Tradition

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Chinese President Xi Jinping announced the elevation of ties with the Maldives to a “Comprehensive Strategic Cooperative Partnership.” The declaration follows a five-day visit to China by Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu, the first state visit of his presidency.

President Xi Jinping highlighted the “historic opportunity” in the Indian Ocean archipelago, signaling a positive turn in relations. During the visit, 20 agreements were signed, including an “Action Plan” for a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership over the next four years.

Chinese President Xi Jinping assured strong support for the Maldives, stating, “China supports the Maldives firmly in safeguarding its national sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity, and national dignity.”

The Maldivian President expressed gratitude for China’s role in the country’s economic success, acknowledging China’s assistance in social housing, higher education, and infrastructure development. Both leaders emphasized the importance of expanding tourism cooperation and air connectivity between the two nations.

This development comes as a significant shift, as traditionally, Maldives’ democratically elected presidents made India their first foreign visit. President Muizzu’s choice to visit China first raised eyebrows, considering his election platform included the ‘India Out’ campaign, demanding the withdrawal of Indian military personnel from the Maldives.

While India was proposed as the first visit, the Maldivian administration insisted on the withdrawal of Indian defence personnel, leading to the current visit to China. President Muizzu had also visited Turkey and the UAE in the past six weeks, with a meeting with the Indian Prime Minister on the sidelines of the COP summit in Dubai.

In response to this news, numerous Indian celebrities, including film stars, announced on Twitter their preference for Indian travel destinations over the Maldives.

This follows derogatory remarks made by Maldivian ministers against Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In response, the Maldives announced the “suspension” of three deputy ministers for their disparaging remarks.

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