BEIJING (Reuters) - China wants to deepen mutually beneficial cooperation with the Maldives, President Xi Jinping said in a congratulatory message to the newly elected Maldivian president, the leader of an opposition that has vowed to review Chinese projects.
China and India are going head-to-head for influence in the Indian Ocean nation, a string of palm-fringed islands and atolls 523 km (325 miles) southwest of India’s southern tip.
The Maldives opposition said before the election it would review China’s investments in its Belt and Road infrastructure initiative, partly out of concern over terms, as experts have warned that the archipelago risked falling into a debt trap.
Xi told Ibrahim Mohamed Solih that China and the Maldives share a long-standing friendship, China’s official Xinhua news agency said late on Sunday.
“China is willing to work with Maldives to continue to cement their friendship and deepen mutually beneficial cooperation in various fields to better benefit the people of both countries,” Xinhua said.
Xi told Solih that he valued the development of relations and was willing to “join hands with Solih to lift the comprehensive friendly cooperative partnership between China and Maldives to a new level”, the report added.
Defeated president Abdulla Yameen had drawn the Maldives closer to China since 2013 in a Beijing-backed infrastructure boom.
China’s Foreign Ministry last week urged “continuity and stability” in the Maldives after the election.
Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Paul Tait