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China cannot be replaced by India, or India by China: Shahid

27 November 2018, MVT 09:00
The newly appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abdulla Shahid, during his oath-taking ceremony. PHOTO: HASSAN WAHEED/MIHAARU
27 November 2018, MVT 09:00

The Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdullah Shahid declared that India’s role to the state cannot be replaced by China, and vice versa.

On an official trip to India, Shahid told ‘Times of India’ (TOI) that the government would prioritize their relationships with neighbouring countries.

“Yameen played one country against another,” he said. “But we don't believe China can replace India or India can replace China.”

"However, one thing which should be obvious is that the neighborhood will get priority".

According to the ‘Times of India’, Shahid reported that the Maldives will continue to have steady relations with China as they are important for the development of the Maldivian economy.

Furthermore, Shahid also affirmed that the Maldives would not be available for military use by any country, regardless of alleged agreements made by the previous administration. On that note, Shahid promised to review and renegotiate any such agreements made with China.

However, despite the statement, no evidence has been presented, suggesting deals made with any country offering the use of Maldivian territory as a military base, during President Yameen’s regime. Nevertheless, in recent months Indian media outlets have raised false alarms of military bases, seemingly based on the increasing amount of Chinese investments made within Maldives' tourism industry.

During his trip to India, Shahid met with the country's Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj on Monday. Reportedly, the ministers had discussed how the Indian government could provide their assistance on the present issues of the Maldives.

Shahid pronounced that the newly elected government of the Maldives would need India’s aid to proceed with the promises made in their manifesto.

“These will ensure that the Maldives turns into a middle-income country in reality and not just on paper,” he said.

"India can also help us develop harbours, which is on top of our agenda for improving access to islands. We can build a good transport network with the help of India."

According to statements made by the Chinese government, a strengthening bond between Maldives and India does not necessarily mean the nation is abandoning existing alliance with China. The ruling Communist Party of China revealed to ‘The Global Times’ last week that they were not threatened by the Maldivian government’s association with India.

"Solih is deemed pro-India by Western and Indian media outlets. But he expressed his appreciation of China for its long-term support and assistance when meeting Luo Shugang, a special envoy of Chinese President Xi Jinping and Chinese minister of culture and tourism, one day after his inauguration", the Chinese media firm reported.

"Even if Solih has a special liking for some other nations, it is necessary for him to put national and regime security, development and economic growth at the top of his priority list", the article stated, adding "Solih may intend to obtain more benefits from India especially when New Delhi is vigilant about the cooperation between China and the Maldives. On the one hand, Solih would satisfy some of India's geopolitical requirements to ensure the security of his regime. On the other, he could obtain more economic assistance from India."

"China hopes that the BRI [Belt and Road Initiative] doesn't trigger geopolitical competition."

Shahid is scheduled to depart to China on an official trip in the following month.

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