Former Maldives Ambassador to China: There is a true friendship between Maldives and China

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The new President of the Maldives, Mohamed Muizzu, broke the "tradition" of presidents' first visit to India in the new year and paid a state visit to China.

He also became the first foreign head of state received by China in 2024.

Mohamed Rasheed, the former ambassador of the Maldives to China and chairman of the China-Maldivian Cultural Association (CMCA), recently accepted an exclusive interview with a Beijing Daily client reporter and said that China is a partner that the Maldives can rely on and a friend in need. The Maldives must choose an independent foreign policy, which is one of the reasons why Maldives attaches great importance to developing relations with China.

Maldives and China are friends who share the same boat through thick and thin.

"The Maldives has always attached great importance to its relations with China. For more than 50 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1972, China has been our development partner, brought us a lot of help, and never interfered in the internal affairs of the Maldives." Mohamed Rasheed said that the relationship between the Maldives and China is not a relationship based on hegemony, but a true friendship, a friend who stands by each other through thick and thin.

Mohamed Rasheed said that when Chinese leaders made a historic visit to the Maldives 10 years ago, Mohamed Muizzu was serving as the Minister of Housing and Infrastructure of the Maldives. Mohamed Muizzu visited China for the first time in 2012 when he first took office as minister. At that time, Mohamed Rasheed served as the Maldives ambassador to China. "President Mohamed Muizzu proposed strengthening relations with China during his campaign, and now the Maldivian people have authorized him to establish closer relations with China. To some extent, this close relationship has existed since 1972."

Mohamed Rasheed said that China has become the world's second largest economic power, opening up to the outside world in many different aspects, and practicing multilateralism. In his view, most South Asian countries need to strengthen relations with China out of their own development needs. For a long time, the most prominent problem that many countries have encountered in development has been connectivity. However, with the implementation of the “Belt and Road” project, regional connectivity has been increasingly improved. Mohamed Rasheed cited the example of Bangladesh, where transportation construction under the Belt and Road Initiative can help them establish better connectivity with Myanmar, Thailand and Laos.

The Maldives must have its own choices

Before this visit to China, the first country Mohamed Muizzu visited after taking office was Türkiye. Mohamed Rasheed pointed out that Turkey is not part of South Asia and Asia in general, but it is also building a solid relationship with the Maldives. “The Maldives is moving in a direction where the people empower our leaders to realize their aspirations, develop a sustainable economy, and maintain good bilateral relations without interference in the internal affairs of the Maldives. The Maldives must have its own choice, and that is Who should be our close partner? In this regard, most Maldivians see China as a partner we can rely on in good times and bad.”

The Maldives is an island country with an area of 115,000 square kilometers and a population of more than 500,000. However, the signals sent by Mohamed Muizzu to strengthen relations with China before and after his election have aroused international public opinion's great attention to the Maldives and geopolitical imagination. Mohamed Rasheed said that although the Maldives is a small country, its geographical location is very important, so the Maldives must adopt a very independent foreign policy and mutual respect with other countries. This is the reason why the Maldives chose China as its partner. As a leader, he must ensure the security, stability and economic development of the country. For President Mohamed Muizzu, this is what he must do. China can especially cooperate strongly with the Maldives in terms of infrastructure.

Cultural exchange cannot be achieved with the stroke of a pen

Mohamed Rasheed served as the Maldives Ambassador to China from 2012 to 2014. After stepping down as ambassador, he established the China-Maldivian Cultural Association (CMCA). "This is the most powerful and active platform model - strengthening relationships and cultural exchanges between people." Mohamed Rasheed said.

In 2023, Mohamed Rasheed visited China three times to reestablish all contacts interrupted by the epidemic. Before the epidemic, Mohamed Rasheed would come to China almost every two months and did a lot of work in promoting people-to-people and cultural exchanges between Maldives and China. Mohamed Rasheed revealed that the China-Maldivian Cultural Association will have the opportunity to set up an office in Beijing this year to establish closer ties.

The China-Maldives Friendship Bridge, opened to traffic in 2018, connects Male’, the capital of the Maldives, and the Airport Island. It is a landmark project for the two countries to jointly build the "Belt and Road". Mohamed Rasheed said that the China-Maldives Friendship Bridge is a real bridge, and the work of the China-Maldivian Cultural Association is to build a virtual bridge that deepens friendship through cultural understanding. This is why he travels between China and Maldives. He believes that cultural understanding is eternal. The basis of friendship.

"We need to build bridges among young people, who are the leaders of the future. Economic ties are easy to establish, but cultural exchanges, mutual understanding, and civilized dialogue cannot be achieved with the stroke of a pen and must be followed up continuously. We must have constant contact." Mohamed Rasheed said that more than 50 years ago, he came to China to study Chinese in the 1970s. At that time, he had foreseen that China would become an economic and strategic superpower in the future.

Mohamed Rasheed said that as a staunch supporter of the Belt and Road Initiative, he believes that the Global Civilization Initiative is a more powerful platform that provides strong support for the Belt and Road Initiative. Mutual understanding between people of various countries in the cultural field will bring more positive effects to infrastructure connectivity. Mohamed Rasheed said that in order to promote cultural exchanges between the two countries, he will spend more time in China in 2024 than in any previous year.

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