Dr. Mohamed Muizzu, the President-elect of the Maldives, has emphasized the continued importance of China’s Belt and Road Initiative in his country’s development. The Belt and Road Initiative, launched in 2013, is China’s comprehensive strategy to enhance its involvement in the infrastructure development of other nations.
Dr. Muizzu’s endorsement of the initiative is not without context, as the Maldives has previously engaged with it during the presidency of Abdullah Yameen, under which Dr. Muizzu served as the Minister of Housing. He highlighted the significance of the China-Maldives Friendship Bridge, a substantial project that enhanced connectivity between Male, Hulhule, and Hulhumale. China provided half of the $200 million for this project as a grant, with the remaining portion structured as a concessional loan.
The China-Maldives Friendship Bridge, a hallmark of Dr. Muizzu’s tenure as housing minister, has brought convenience to the lives of Maldivians and visitors alike. Dr. Muizzu also underlined the importance of housing projects in Hulhumale, which were made possible with Chinese assistance.
Regarding the ties with both China and India, the recent presidential election underscored the significance of this issue. Dr. Mohamed Muizzu, an advocate for stronger relations with China, won the election over incumbent President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, known for his pro-India stance. The election campaign was characterized by critical issues, including a housing crisis and concerns over depleting dollar reserves, with various parties presenting competing proposals to address trade de-dollarization.
However, one of the most dominant concerns throughout the campaign revolved around the influence of India and China in the strategically located Maldives, which lies 450 miles south of India and along crucial Indian Ocean shipping routes. Both China and India have a history of seeking influence in neighboring countries. While China initially held an advantage due to its financial resources and Belt and Road investments, India has become more assertive in the region.