Maldives, China sign 20 agreements after Muizzu-Xi meeting amid diplomatic row with India

Syllabus: GS-II;

Subject: International Relations;

Topic: India and its neighbourhood- relations.

Context: Amid a diplomatic row with India, Maldives signs 20 agreements with China, strengthening ties, tourism, and economic cooperation.

Synopsis:

  • Elevated their bilateral ties to a Comprehensive Strategic Cooperative Partnership.
  • The agreements cover areas such as disaster risk reduction, the blue economy, digital economy investment, and support for the Belt and Road Initiative. China will also provide grant assistance to the Maldives, although the specific amount was not disclosed.
  • Muizzu, considered a pro-China leader, is seeking increased Chinese tourism to compensate for Indian cancellations.
  • Despite the diplomatic tensions, Muizzu affirmed China as one of the Maldives’ closest allies and praised President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects.
  • Additionally, Muizzu emphasized the commitment to implementing the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) signed with China in 2014, describing it as a symbol of the close commercial ties between the two countries.
  • China-Maldives bilateral trade in 2022 amounted to USD 451.29 million, with China’s exports dominating the trade relationship. Muizzu also sought Chinese investments for 11 projects at the Maldives Investment Forum.

Impact On India:

  • Strained diplomatic relations and a decrease in Indian tourist arrivals, which historically constituted the largest number of visitors to the Maldives. The elevated partnership with China and the signed agreements may further shift the geopolitical dynamics in the region.

Background:

Concerns of India

·      Maldives’ shift towards China weakens India’s historical influence and economic ties.

·      India opposes Maldives joining the BRI, fearing the erosion of its regional influence.

·      Concerns arise over Chinese investments leading to a potential debt trap for the Maldives.

·      Fear of a Chinese naval presence in the Indian Ocean and rising Islamic fundamentalism in the Maldives.

·      Maldives’ changing allegiance compromises India’s influence in the region.

·      India may engage diplomatically to regain influence and address security concerns in the region.

 

Conclusion: The evolving dynamics between Maldives and China, fueled by diplomatic tensions with India, raise significant concerns. The impact on Indian tourism, potential geopolitical shifts, and economic implications underscore the need for vigilant diplomacy and strategic recalibration in the region.

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