China says 'firmly opposes external interference' in Maldives as Mohamed Muizzu winds up visit
China supports the island nation in upholding its sovereignty and independence, according to an official statement
China on Thursday said 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 to the country amid a diplomatic row with India.
"The two sides agree to continue firmly supporting each other in safeguarding their respective core interests," said a joint statement issued at the end of Muizzu's talks with senior Chinese leaders.
"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, without referring to any country.
The statement comes at a time when Maldives, headed by Muizzu, who is regarded as a pro-China leader, is 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 by Indian tourists to the Maldives. Muizzu suspended the ministers with a warning not to make such remarks.
His visit to China is also marred by the release of a report by the EU Election Observation Mission of Maldives that said the ruling coalition of Progressive Party of Maldives and the People's National Congress deployed anti-India sentiments and attempted to spread disinformation in the 2023 presidential polls in which Muizzu won.
According to the joint statement, Muizzu agreed to back Xi's doctrines, Global Security Initiative (GSI), which advocates for joint security, besides Global Development Initiative (GDI), Global Civilization Initiative (GCI) and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
"The two sides agree to explore ways towards implementing the GSI in the efforts to deepen cooperation in law enforcement and jointly meet key challenges including those posed by traditional and non-traditional security challenges, to promote the development of bilateral relations and contribute to peace and stability at regional and global levels," the statement said.
"The Maldives highly appreciates the vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind, the BRI, the principle of promoting amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness with neighboring countries," it said.
"The Maldives intends to join the Group of Friends of the GDI and work with other parties to promote practical cooperation in areas identified by the GDI, so as to create synergy for accelerating the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development," it added.
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 nations 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, economic and technical, blue economy, digital economy, green development, infrastructure construction, and assistance for people's livelihood, the joint statement said.
The two sides will actively promote economic and trade cooperation, fully leverage the mechanism of China-Maldives Joint Committee on Economic and Trade Cooperation, enhance trade facilitation, and promote high-quality development of economic and trade cooperation between the two countries, it said.
The two countries are satisfied with the outcomes of the visit by President Muizzu to China, and agree that the visit is of great significance to advancing the China-Maldives comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership, it said.
"Since the establishment of diplomatic ties 52 years ago, the two countries have always respected and supported each other," it added.
President Muizzu "expressed appreciation for the warm hospitality of President Xi Jinping, the Chinese Government and the Chinese people, and invited Chinese leaders to visit the Maldives at mutually convenient times" it said.
Muizzu, who arrived in China on 8 January on a five-day state visit, on Thursday held talks with Chinese Premier Li Qiang and discussed the implementation of the various projects China committed to implement. He also met Zhao Leji, Chairman of the Standing Committee of the 14th National People's Congress.
Muizzu and First Lady Sajida Mohammad also visited the Huawei Beijing Convention Centre, where representatives from Huawei briefed the president on how these advancements facilitate both governments and individuals in enhancing their daily operations. They also visited Tiananmen Square.