Ibrahim Mohamed Solih addresses the crowds at the national football stadium in Male, Maldives, Nov. 17, 2018. Ibrahim Mohamed Solih was sworn in as the 7th president of the Maldives at a grand ceremony in the capital of Male on Saturday. Photo: Xinhua
New Maldives president’s adoption of an ‘India first’ policy, followed by India’s promise to help the country “through its economic difficulties,” may push the Maldives back to being a dependent nation of India, Chinese analysts said.
At his inauguration held in Male, capital of the Maldives on Saturday, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih announced that his team had launched a review of Belt and Road initiative (BRI) projects. He will also look into his country’s debt owed to China-backed infrastructure projects of “at least $1.5 billion,” Reuters reported.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said in a statement after meeting with Solih, that India was ready to help the country through its economic difficulties, NDTV reported.
China-Maldives relations will likely recoil, said Hu Zhiyong, a research fellow at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences’ Institute of International Relations.
Joint China-Maldives projects under the BRI may be affected by the move, Hu told the Global Times on Sunday. He believes China-India ties are also likely to suffer as the Indian government will not stop viewing China as a threat to its dominance in the Indian Ocean.
According to Hu, the Maldives is a very important supply point in the Indian Ocean. Solih’s close relationship with India may push the Maldives back to being a dependent nation of India.
Hu said media reports saying BRI projects are responsible for Maldives’s debt that will swamp the country’s economy are unfair and not objective.
He stressed that “China’s BRI projects have no political or economic strings attached and is intended to help countries develop and get rid of poverty.”
The China-Maldives Friendship Bridge, the Maldives’ first sea bridge, opened to traffic in August, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
Connecting the capital Male and neighbouring Hulhule island where the Maldives’ main international airport is located, the two-kilometre bridge makes it possible for locals and tourists to transfer between the two islands in five minutes, Xinhua said.
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