Maldives minister highlights close ties to India during China visit

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A senior Maldivian minister on his maiden visit to China on Wednesday spoke of President Mohamed Muizzu’s recent visit to New Delhi and the importance of India to his country’s tourism-dependent economy.
The comments by Minister of Economic Development and Trade Mohamed Saeed came as Male seems to have re-oriented ties with New Delhi following President Muizzu, known for his pro-China leanings, attending Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s swearing-in ceremony earlier this month.

“President Muizzu reiterated that India remains our closest neighbour,” Saeed, who is attending the 15th World Economic Forum (WEF) at Dalian, told in an interview.

“India and Maldives have a long relationship. India is one of the most important tourism destinations for us, especially in terms of inbound tourism. There are a lot of Indian investments in Maldives, especially in the tourism sector,” he said answering a question about “strained” ties between Maldives and India.
On his return to Male from New Delhi, President Muizzu described his official visit to India to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Modi as a “significant success” for the Maldives.
Muizzu also emphasised that the strong ties between the two nations would bring prosperity to the Maldives and Maldivian citizens, and he expressed optimism for a successful bilateral relationship in the future.
Saeed is the first Maldives minister to visit China after Muizzu visited Beijing in January which made headlines as it took place in the backdrop of his demand for the withdrawal of over 80 Indian military personnel operating two helicopters and a Dornier aircraft gifted by India.
During that visit, he met Chinese President Xi Jinping and signed a comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership with Beijing besides 20 agreements. Later, his government also signed a deal with China’s military for the supply of ‘non-lethal’ weapons to the Maldives free of cost.

Around the same time, prompted by the controversial remarks by three officials after Modi posted a photograph of Lakshadweep Islands, scores of Indians, including many celebrities, ran a #BoycottMaldives campaign that
continues to impact and has seen a huge drop in number of Indian tourists to the archipelagic nation.
As per statistics from the Maldives Ministry of Tourism, the total number of tourists’ arrival in 2024 as on June 25 was 9,93,328. Of these, with 1,15,815 tourists, China number 3 last year – topped the list (11.7 per cent).
It is followed by Russia at 1,02,317 (10.3 per cent), UK at 91,712 (9.2 per cent), Italy at 79,287 (8.0 per cent) and Germany at 77,155 (7.8 per cent) while India, which was at number 1 position last year, was at sixth position with only 61,770 (6.2 per cent) tourists.

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