Maldives to restructure Chinese debt, says Foreign Minister

‘India first policy is an expression of a geographic reality’

The Maldives will seek to restructure the $1.4 billion-debt it owes China, and the island nation’s “India first” policy will not come in the way of negotiations with the Asian giant, Maldivian Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid said on Thursday.

China has been a “generous donor” to the Maldives and the relationship between the two countries “is on a stable footing”, the Minister told Colombo-based foreign journalists.

Mr. Shahid was in Colombo to convey felicitations to the newly-elected President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and newly appointed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Accusing former President Abdulla Yameen’s government of borrowing “unreasonably” from Beijing, the Maldivian Foreign Minister said Male was confident of being able to service the outstanding debt. “We are talking to the Chinese and I have confidence that we will be able to reach a diplomatic understanding in the coming years,” he said, ruling out a debt to equity swap.

Observing that the Indian Ocean island nation’s “India first” policy was an expression of a geographic reality, Minister Shahid said: “It is about proximity and India has always responded to the Maldives during emergencies… So yes, it is India first.”

In his meetings with the Sri Lankan leadership, Mr. Shahid pledged closer cooperation with Sri Lanka in combating terrorism. “Even when I visited in May, soon after the Easter bombings, I brought our government and President [Ibrahim Mohamed] Solih’s commitment that we are united in confronting this evil of terrorism, of radicalism. We will not back down,” he said.

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