China says ‘firmly opposes external interference’ in Maldives as Muizzu winds up visit

Beijing: China on Thursday said that it “firmly opposes external interference” in the internal affairs of the Maldives and supports the island nation in upholding its sovereignty and independence as Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu concluded his maiden visit here.

“The two sides agree to continue firmly supporting each other in safeguarding their respective core interests,” a joint statement issued at the end of Muizzu’s talks with Chinese leaders said.

“China firmly supports the Maldives in upholding its national sovereignty, independence and national dignity, respects and supports the Maldives’ exploration of a development path that suits its national conditions, and firmly opposes external interference in the internal affairs of the Maldives,” it said.

The statement comes at a time when Maldives headed by Muizzu, who is regarded as a pro-Beijing leader, was involved in a diplomatic row with India over derogatory statements made by three Maldivian ministers against Prime Minister Narendra Modi leading to a spate of cancellation of reservations of Indian tourists to Maldives.

Muizzu suspended the ministers with a warning not to make such remarks.

For its part, Maldives said in the joint statement that it is “firmly committed to the one-China principle, recognising that there is but one China in the world, the Government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legal government representing the whole of China, and Taiwan is an inalienable part of China’s territory.” It added that the Maldives “opposes any statement or action that undermines China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, opposes all “Taiwan independence” separatist activities, and will not develop any form of official relations with Taiwan.” “The Maldives opposes external interference in China’s internal affairs under any pretext and supports all efforts made by China to achieve national reunification,” it said.

China and Maldives signed 20 agreements on Wednesday after talks between Muizzu and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The agreements include cooperation in tourism to increase Chinese tourists to the island nation. China is currently placed in third position while Indian tourists constitute the highest with over two lakhs last year followed by Russia.

The two sides signed the Action Plan for Building a China-Maldives Comprehensive Strategic Cooperative Partnership (2024-2028) and inked documents on cooperation in areas such as the Belt and Road cooperation, economic and technical cooperation, blue economy, digital economy, green development, infrastructure construction, and assistance for people’s livelihood.

Muizzu arrived in China on January 8 and is scheduled to complete his visit on Friday.

On Thursday, he held talks with Chinese Premier Li Qiang and discussed the implementation of the various projects China committed to implement.

Muizzu’s visit to China is marred by the diplomatic row with India and the release of a report by the EU Election Observation Mission of Maldives that said the ruling coalition of Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) and the People’s National Congress (PNC) deployed anti-India sentiments and attempted to spread disinformation in the 2023 presidential elections in which Muizzu won.