China on Tuesday expressed hopes that the future government of Maldives will respect the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the Asian giant, as well as continue to back its Belt and Road Initiative.
According to Indian newspaper 'The Hindu', Chinese Foreign Ministry's spokesperson Geng Shuang made the remark in a congratulatory message to President-Elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, who beat incumbent President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom by a wide margin in the Presidential Election held this Sunday.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry stated that it respected the choice of the Maldivian people, and hoped that the new government will respect the FTA that was signed between China and Maldives last year September, during President Yameen’s regime.
“As to the FTA signed between China and Maldives…we hope the Maldives will maintain consistency and stability of their policy and create an enabling environment for Chinese enterprises operation in the Maldives," said Geng Shuang.
“China will work with Maldives to ensure the sound implementation of FTA and expand trade and investment cooperation between both the sides for the greater benefit and development of people of both the nations."
The spokesperson further expressed China's expectation that the new administration of Maldives will continue to support the new Silk Road initiative spearheaded by the Chinese government.
“China and Maldives enjoy traditional friendship and in recent years the two countries maintained sound momentum and conducted mutual beneficial cooperation under the framework of the Belt and Road and achieved outstanding outcomes," said Shuang.
“We are willing to work with the Maldives to consolidate our traditional friendship and deepen our cooperation to the benefit of the people of both the nations.”
Maldives significantly strengthened its ties with China during President Yameen's tenure, with China making substantial investments, most notably the development and expansion of Velana International airport, and the landmark Sinamale Bridge which connects capital Male and airport island Hulhule.
However, opposition entities have been raising concerns over Maldives' increasing debt to China, expressing fear of China gaining control of the Maldivian economy. The opposition along with some international bodies have also voiced concerns that China's growing presence in the Indian Ocean could compromise regional security.