Hoping for continued conducive business environment for Chinese firms in Maldives under the new government, China on Tuesday congratulated Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, widely viewed as an ally of India, a day after he defeated the pro-Beijing President, Abdullah Yameen, in the Presidential election.
China is willing to work with Maldives to consolidate “our friendship and deepen the cooperation between the two countries”, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a media briefing here.
Solih’s victory has a geopolitical significance in the South Asian region as the archipelago is strategically located in the Indian Ocean where China is flexing its muscles.
In 2014, the Maldives had signed a MoU with Beijing in support of China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a project which is opposed by India as it includes the China Pakistan-Economic Corridor (CPEC) which transverses through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
“China congratulates the Maldives on its successful presidential election as well as Soil’s victory,” Shuang said.
“We respect Maldives’ people’s choice and we hope the country can maintain stability and development,” he said.
The comments were China’s first reaction to Solih’s unexpected victory on Monday.
“China and Maldives enjoy traditional friendship. In recent years, the two countries maintained very sound development momentum and we have conducted mutually beneficial cooperation under framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, (BRI) and achieved outstanding outcomes,” Shuang said.
Responding to a question on strong criticism of large scale Chinese investment in the island nation and the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) by the Maldivian Democratic Party to which Solih belonged, Shuang hoped the new government would create enabling environment for the Chinese firms to continue to work in Maldives.
China and Maldives had signed the FTA in last September and it came into effect on August 1 this year.
China is ready to continue cooperation with Maldives, the spokesman said.
“As to the FTA signed between China and the Maldives...we have always encouraged Chinese enterprises to invest and operate in Maldives in accordance with the market-based rules and regulations,” Shuang said.
China hopes “Maldives will maintain the consistency and the stability of their policies and create enabling atmosphere for the Chinese enterprises operations there”, he said.
“China will work with Maldives to ensure the sound implementation of this FTA and expand the trade and investment cooperation between the two sides to the greater benefit of our two countries and two peoples,” the spokesperson said.