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Business News/ News / World/  India-Maldives row: ‘China one of our best allies’, Maldives President Muizzu urges Beijing to send more tourists

India-Maldives row: ‘China one of our best allies’, Maldives President Muizzu urges Beijing to send more tourists

Maldivian President appeals to China to increase tourism after Indian tourists cancel reservations due to diplomatic row.

President of the Maldives Mohamed Muizzu (Reuters)Premium
President of the Maldives Mohamed Muizzu (Reuters)

Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu on Tuesday urged China to intensify efforts to send more tourists to his country amid the India-Maldives row that caused the cancellation of reservations by Indian tourists after a diplomatic row erupted over the derogatory remarks against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 

Addressing the Maldives Business Forum in Fujian Province on the second day of his five-day visit to China, Muizzu termed China as the island nation's “closest" ally. “China remains one of our closest allies and development partners."

He praised the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects launched by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2014, saying that they "delivered the most significant infrastructure projects witnessed in Maldivian history", according to his speech.

"China was our (Maldives') number one market pre-Covid, and I request that we intensify efforts for China to regain this position," according to a readout posted on his official website.

Meanwhile, Maldivian media reported that the two countries have signed a USD 50 million project to develop an integrated tourism zone on the Indian Ocean island, PTI reported. 

After concluding his Fujian visit, Muizzu on Tuesday arrived in Beijing where he is expected to hold talks with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Ke Qiang.

Muizzu’s appeal for more Chinese tourists came amid a diplomatic row following the derogatory remarks by some Maldivian ministers against Prime Minister Modi after he posted a video of him on a pristine beach during his recent visit to Lakshadweep.

Muizzu’s government suspended three deputy ministers for their derogatory posts on social media. The Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) has also strongly condemned the derogatory comments.

 India remained the largest tourist market for the country in 2023. The highest number of visitors to the Maldives were from India, with 209,198 arrivals, followed by Russia in second place with 209,146 arrivals, and China in third place with 187,118 arrivals.

In 2022, India remained the top Maldives tourism market, with 240,000 arrivals. Russia followed closely in second place with 198,000 tourists, and Britain ranked third with over 177,000 arrivals.

Before COVID-19, China held the top spot with over 2.80 lakh tourists but is currently struggling to revive its domestic and foreign tourism due to a nearly four-year lockdown policy and the continued slowdown of its economy.

Maldives and China signed the FTA in December 2014 during the pro-China President Abdulla Yameen administration. However, his successor, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s administration did not implement the agreement, according to Maldives media reports.

China-Maldives bilateral trade in 2022 totaled to USD 451.29 million of which China’s exports constituted USD 451.29 million against USD 60,000 of exports from Maldives.

Muizzu also sought investments from Chinese companies for 11 projects at the Maldives Investment Forum.

The projects included the relocation of the Male Commercial Port to Thilafushi, the Velana International Airport development project, the construction of 15 more airports, and the expansion of SEZ, Maldives web portal reported.


(With PTI inputs)

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Published: 10 Jan 2024, 07:27 AM IST
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