"No Zero-Sum Game": China On Ties With Maldives Amid India Row

The editorial by Global Times says China has always treated the Maldives as an equal partner and respected its sovereignty

Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu and wife Sajidha Mohamed in China today

New Delhi:

On a day Maldives' President Mohamed Muizzu landed in Beijing to sign bilateral agreements, China's state media in an editorial referred to India's diplomatic row with the Maldives, and called for an "open-minded" approach to looking at South Asian issues.

The Maldives government has suspended three ministers over their derogatory comments on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Lakshadweep, India's smallest Union Territory.

The Maldivian government has distanced itself from the "insulting" comments by the three ministers, and called the matter their "personal opinion that do not represent the views of the government".

Ties between India and the archipelago nation in the past few months, however, have been strained after Mr Muizzu came to power. Seen as a pro-China politician, Mr Muizzu had defeated his India-friendly predecessor Ibrahim Mohamed Solih in the presidential run-off held in September.

The editorial by Global Times says China has always treated the Maldives as an equal partner and respected its sovereignty.

"It also respects the friendly and cooperative relationship between the Maldives and India, fully aware of the importance for Male to maintain good relations with New Delhi. Beijing has never asked Male to reject New Delhi because of the conflicts between China and India, nor does it view cooperation between the Maldives and India as unfriendly or a threat," the Chinese state media editorial said.

"It (China) is also willing to carry out trilateral cooperation between China, India and the Maldives. New Delhi should stay more open-minded, as China's cooperation with South Asian countries is not a zero-sum game," it said.

Mr Muizzu's predecessors in the recent past visited India first, considering the wide-ranging bilateral ties and the Maldives' proximity to India, followed by China which has expanded its influence in the island nation by investing in major infrastructure projects there.

"Under normal circumstances, when a new leader comes to power, they arrange their visits based on the importance and urgency of the matters to be dealt with. President Muizzu broke tradition by visiting Turkey for his first official overseas visit instead of India," Global Times said.

Mr Muizzu, accompanied by wife Sajidha Mohamed, visited the Xiamen Free Trade Zone in China's Fujian province today, news agency PTI reported. Representatives from the Xiamen Free Trade Zone presented an introductory video.

Mr Muizzu is due to hold talks with Chinese President Xi and sign several agreements, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin. "The relations between China and the Maldives now stand at a new historical starting point. We believe that through this visit, the two heads of state will provide strategic guidance for the bilateral relations to reach a new height," Wang told the media on January 5.