Beijing, Oct 1: China wants to continue building its friendship and deepen cooperation with the Maldives, President Xi Jinping has said in its congratulatory note to the country's newly elected President Ibrahim Solih, who ousted pro-Beijing Abdulla Yameen in general election. Solih, who was sent the message by Xi on Sunday as reported by the state-run Xinhua news agency, is the leader of the Maldivian Democratic Party that has been critical of the Chinese projects and deals signed under Yameen who was said to have drifted from traditional ally India to China. "China is willing to work with the Maldives to continue to cement their friendship and deepen mutually beneficial cooperation in various fields to better benefit the people of both countries," Xi said in his message. He said he highly values the development of China-Maldives relations and was willing to join hands with Solih to lift the comprehensive friendly cooperative partnership between the two countries to a new level. FOCAC Beijing Summit 2018: Chinese President Xi Jinping to Showcase BRI in Beijing.
The election of Solih is bound to worry China as his party had raised objections to the Free Trade Agreement signed between Yameen and Beijing. The 1,000-page document was rushed through in the Maldivian Parliament at lightning speed without any debate. Last week, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said Beijing hoped that Male will stick to the pact and create an enabling environment for Chinese companies. It also chided Maldives former President Mohamed Nasheed for slandering Beijing.
The deal, said to be in favour of China, is yet to become operational. Located in one of the world's busiest shipping lanes in the India Ocean, the archipelago is strategically important to China which has invested heavily in the country. This has worried India, which suspects that Chinese investment is mainly to encircle India in the Indian Ocean.