China fully supports sovereignty of the Maldives; bilateral ties set to achieve new heights: Mohamed Muizzu

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Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu

Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu (File image)

Male/Beijing: Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu has spoken highly of his country's strategic ties with China, saying the two countries respect each other and Beijing fully supports the Indian Ocean island's sovereignty.

Muizzu's comments came amid an unease in the Maldives' bilateral ties with India after he took office in November last year.

Muizzu, who returned to the Maldives on Saturday after a high-profile state visit to China, noted that China has provided assistance to the development of the Maldives since establishing diplomatic relations in 1972.

During his just-concluded visit to China, Muizzu, regarded as a pro-China leader, sought to align Maldives closer to Beijing and both countries elevated their ties to a strategic partnership.

He also said China's Belt and Road Initiative has taken bilateral relations to a new level.

China is not a country that would interfere with the internal affairs of the Maldives, which is why the two countries have a strong relationship, Muizzu was quoted as saying in an interview with China's state-run CGTN channel.

He added that the Maldives and China respect each other, and China fully supports Maldives' sovereignty.

The President expressed his belief that the China-Maldives relations will continue to grow stronger in the future, the official PSM News quoted him as saying in the interview.

He also said his Chinese counterpart President Xi Jinping puts the interest of citizens first and that China's economy has reached new heights under his leadership.

He added President Xi has assured him that the Chinese government will help the Maldives achieve its goals.

President Muizzu said his vision involves strengthening the economy of the Maldives and bringing progress in accordance with the expectations of the people.

He also said he wants to transform the Maldives into a country that works in harmony with other developed countries within the framework of his vision.

His remarks came amid a row between the Maldives and India over derogatory comments posted by three deputy ministers of the Muizzu government against Prime Minister Narendra Modi leading to a diplomatic row with India.

Muizzu suspended the three ministers after their social media postings, which stirred concern in India and calls for a boycott by Indian tourists who ranked highest in numbers followed by Russia. Chinese tourists figured third.

Muizzu has also asked India to withdraw its military personnel from his country by March 15.

According to the latest government figures, there are 88 Indian military personnel stationed in the Maldives to help operate a Dornier aircraft and two helicopters provided by India.

Speaking to the press on Saturday after returning from China, President Muizzu indirectly attacked India.

Without naming any country, he said, "We may be small, but that doesn't give you the license to bully us.” He also announced plans to reduce the country’s dependency on India, including securing imports of essential food commodities and medicine and consumables from other countries.

“We aren’t in anyone’s backyard. We are an independent and sovereign state,” he said, addressing the reporters gathered at the Velana International Airport.

He said that no country has the right to exert influence over the domestic affairs of a country, regardless of its size.

He vowed that he would not allow any external influence on the domestic affairs of the Maldives.

Male is also reviewing more than 100 bilateral agreements with New Delhi signed by the previous government here.