Amid Tensions with India, Maldives Deepens Ties with China: 20 Agreements Signed, Including Tourism Boost


New Delhi, India – In a move likely to raise eyebrows in New Delhi, Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu concluded a highly publicized state visit to China on January 10th, culminating in the signing of 20 “key” agreements between the two nations. This diplomatic development comes amidst simmering tensions between India and the Maldives, fueled by recent derogatory remarks made by Maldivian ministers towards Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The comprehensive agreement package spans various sectors, including tourism cooperation, disaster risk reduction, blue economy development, and digital infrastructure investment. Notably, tourism, a vital pillar of the Maldivian economy, received particular focus with a dedicated agreement aimed at strengthening cooperation in this crucial area. This aligns with China’s growing influence in the Maldives, especially considering its position as the island nation’s largest source of tourists.

Beyond tourism, the agreements represent a broader strategic shift in Maldivian foreign policy. The two leaders declared the elevation of bilateral relations to a “Comprehensive Strategic Cooperative Partnership,” signaling a deepened level of engagement. This move coincides with China’s burgeoning ambitions in the Indian Ocean region, raising concerns amongst Indian strategists regarding potential Chinese encroachment in its backyard.

India, traditionally the Maldives’ closest ally, has expressed displeasure over the recent developments. The diplomatic spat triggered by the anti-Modi remarks remains unresolved, and New Delhi has reportedly viewed the China-Maldives agreement package with caution. Some Indian analysts perceive the agreements as a potential “debt trap” for the Maldives, similar to China’s tactics in other developing nations.

However, Maldives maintains it seeks a balanced foreign policy, emphasizing the importance of good relations with both India and China. Muizzu, after concluding his China visit, stated that the 20 agreements aim to “further strengthen ties and cooperation with China while continuing to work closely with all our bilateral partners, including India.”

The India-Maldives relationship, long considered warm and mutually beneficial, now faces a delicate test. Both sides will need to navigate the new geopolitical landscape with sensitivity and a commitment to maintaining friendly relations, ensuring stability and prosperity for the Maldives and the wider Indian Ocean region.

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