Chinese President Xi Jinping due to visit Maldives

Chinese President Xi Jinping is due to arrive in the Maldives on an official state visit next week in the first ever trip to the country by a Chinese head of state.

“During his stay in the Maldives, President Xi will be officially ‎meeting President [Abdulla] Yameen one-on-one,” the President’s Office revealed in a statement.

“The two leaders will chair official talks between high-level delegations of the respective countries.‎”

A number of bilateral agreements “on advancing developmental corporation in various identified ‎fields” would be signed during the visit, the President’s Office said.

“Furthermore, two development projects in the Maldives that are ‎funded by the Chinese Government and implemented by Chinese ‎corporations will also be launched jointly by the two presidents,” the statement added.

President Yameen extended an invitation to visit the Maldives to Xi Jinping during official talks held in Nanjing last month.

A 200-strong delegation, including representatives from major Chinese companies, is expected to accompany the Chinese president.

Speaking at a Progressive Party of Maldives event on Thursday, President Yameen reportedly said that the imminent visit of one of the most influential world leaders was an honour for the Maldives.

China was a global economic powerhouse with one of the fastest growing economies in the world, Yameen noted.

“[Xi Jinping] is beginning his Asian tour in the Maldives. He is arriving one month to the day after I returned to the Maldives after visiting China,” Yameen was quoted as saying by newspaper Haveeru.

“We will use the visit to bring development for the people. During the Chinese president’s visit, [he] will agree to do many things for the Maldives.”

China bridge

Upon returning from a visit to China last month, Yameen said the Chinese government has pledged assistance in building a bridge connecting the capital Malé and Hulhumalé.

According to the President’s Office, President Yameen expressed his desire for the bridge to be known as the ‘China Bridge’ “to symbolise the friendly ties between the two countries” during a meeting with Xi Jinping.

Speaking to the press, Yameen revealed that the Chinese president recommended forming a high-level China-Maldives joint commission to oversee the project.

The Chinese president was also briefed about other ‘mega projects’ the government plans to commence, Yameen said, adding that “major Chinese contractors” would undertake the projects.

The Chinese government could ensure that loan facilities sought from the Chinese EXIM bank would be provided at a very low interest rate, he explained.

Meetings also took place between the Maldivian delegation and “large Chinese civil works companies,” Yameen noted.

Based on assurances from Xi Jinping, Yameen expressed confidence of receiving significant assistance from the Chinese government for the bridge project.

The Chinese government also provided MVR250 million (US$16 million) as grant aid during the president’s trip.

Discussions also focused on “important matters for China in international diplomacy,” Yameen revealed, referring to the the Chinese ‘New Silk Road’ project, which he said was intended to foster economic relations and increase trade between China and Asia-Pacific nations.

“We requested participation in the Silk Road initiative and were immediately welcomed,” he said.

Yameen said the Maldives would back China in the international arena as the two countries shared “the same principles on a number of issues, especially concerning the Indian Ocean region, human rights and many such matters.”

Asked if closer ties with China would adversely impact relations with India or Japan, Yameen said Sino-Maldives economic cooperation would not affect “the very friendly, close relations with India”.

“All these projects are also open to India and we are doing a lot of diplomatic work with India,” he said, referring to his administration’s decision not to sign a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the United States as an example of cooperation.

“No country has expressed concern so far and I don’t believe they will either,” he said.