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China congratulates pro-Beijing winner of Maldives election

China’s congratulates Mohamed Muizzu, the pro-Beijing winner of the recent Maldivian presidential election, signaling a potential shift in the country’s geopolitical relationships, particularly concerning traditional benefactor India.

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BEIJING, CHINA — China on Monday congratulated Mohamed Muizzu, the pro-Beijing winner of a recent presidential election in the Maldives.

China’s foreign ministry said the country “respects the choice of the Maldivian people and congratulates President-elect Mohamed Muizzu”.

“China is willing to work with the Maldives to consolidate the traditional friendship, deepen mutually beneficial cooperation and push for continuous new progress,” the ministry said in a statement to AFP.

This would take place “in the future-oriented comprehensive friendly cooperative partnership between the two countries”, it added.

Muizzu’s victory is set to once again upend the archipelago’s relationship with traditional benefactor India.

He helms a party that presided over an influx of Chinese loans when it last held power in the atoll nation, better known for its luxury beach resorts and celebrity tourists.

The Maldives sits in a strategically vital position in the middle of the Indian Ocean, astride one of the world’s busiest east-west shipping lanes.

Muizzu’s mentor, former president Abdulla Yameen, borrowed heavily from China for construction projects and spurned India.

Muizzu was a proxy candidate of Yameen, who is still serving an 11-year sentence for corruption carried out when he was in power between 2013 and 2018.

Yameen’s turn towards Beijing alarmed New Delhi, which shares concerns with the United States and its allies about China’s growing assertiveness in the Indian Ocean.

But President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s restoration of the Maldives’ traditional posture itself proved controversial, with many in the archipelago disapproving of India’s outsized political and economic clout.

Solih will serve as caretaker president until his successor is inaugurated next month.

Last year, Muizzu told a meeting with Chinese Communist Party officials that his party’s return to office would “script a further chapter of strong ties between our two countries”.

— AFP

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