On January 10, President Xi Jinping and Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu met during a diplomatic spat with India after remarks made by his ministers disparaging Prime Minister Narendra Modi. During their meeting, they signed 20 “key” agreements, one of which was on tourism cooperation.

In Beijing, Mohamed Muizzu and his spouse Sajida Mohammad received a red carpet greeting and a 21-gun salute. Following their discussions, the two presidents declared that their bilateral relationship had been upgraded to a comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership.

The Maldivian President’s office stated in a post on X that “20 key agreements were signed today between the Government of the Maldives and the Government of China this afternoon and both the Presidents witnessed the signing ceremony.”

The agreements struck covered disaster risk reduction, blue economy collaboration, tourism, and bolstering digital economy investment. The Maldives will also get grant support from China, albeit the precise sum was not made public.

The agreements also included working together to expedite the creation of the Belt and Road Initiative Cooperation Plan, the social housing project on Fushidhiggaru Falhu, the processing factories for fisheries goods, and the rehabilitation of the Male and Villimale Road Development Projects.

Muizzu, who is seen as a pro-China leader, is in China at the moment of tensions with India for remarks he made about Prime Minister Modi that caused many Indian visitors to cancel their bookings.

Prior to his arrival back in Male on January 12, Muizzu is anticipated to meet with senior officials, including Chinese Premier Li Qiang.

After spending two days in the Chinese city of Fujian, he arrived in Beijing last night.

During his Tuesday speech at the Maldives Business Forum in Fujian Province, Muizzu urged China to “intensify” its efforts to increase the number of visitors to his nation.

“China was our (Maldives’) number one market (for tourism) pre-Covid, and it is my request that we intensify efforts for China to regain this position,” he stated.

In his speech, Muizzu commended the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects, stating that they “delivered the most significant infrastructure projects witnessed in Maldivian history” and that they had been initiated by Xi Jinping in 2014.

The two nations have signed a USD 50 million initiative to create an integrated tourism zone on the island in the Indian Ocean, according to Maldivian media, PTI said.

In 2022, China and the Maldives had bilateral trade worth $451.29 million, of which $451.29 million came from exports from China and $60,000 from the Maldives.

At the Maldives Investment Forum, Muizzu also asked Chinese businesses to invest in 11 of its projects.

India Maldives economy factor:

India continues to be the Maldives‘ top visitor destination in 2023, according to data previously made public by the tourism ministry.

With 209,198 arrivals, India was the country that sent the most tourists to the Maldives. Russia came in second with 209,146 arrivals, and China came in third with 187,118 arrivals.

It is noteworthy that Muizzu added that China is still “one of our closest allies and development partners.”