Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to visit Sri Lanka, Maldives in January

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will visit Sri Lanka and the Maldives early January, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian confirmed, as Beijing seeks to enhance its influence in the region, considered as India's backyard

Dec 31, 2021
Image
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (File)

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will visit Sri Lanka and the Maldives early January, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian confirmed, as Beijing seeks to enhance its influence in the region, considered as India's backyard.

The upcoming visits to two South Asian countries—the traditional allies of India— come at a time when both Sri Lanka and the Maldives are looking for post-pandemic recovery and economic assistance. 

Importantly, Sri Lanka, which has been going through its worst economic crisis, has been expecting relief measures in the form of the economic package, and investment proposals. [Read More]  

Significantly, 2022 is also the 50th anniversary of China-Maldives diplomatic relations and the 65th anniversary of China-Sri Lanka diplomatic relations, and the 70th anniversary of the Rubber-Rice Pact.

“China and the two countries are traditionally friendly neighbors and important partners with close high-level exchange(s), deep practical cooperation, broad common interests, and the same or similar positions on many regional and international issues,” Lijian said.

“We will work together with the two countries to build on the momentum generated by commemorating the anniversaries of diplomatic relations to deepen traditional friendship, enhance political mutual trust, strengthen solidarity against COVID-19, upgrade practical cooperation including under the Belt and Road Initiative framework, and increase coordination and cooperation in international and regional affairs,” he said.

Recent strain in Lanka-China ties

Both, China and Sri Lanka, which share close cordial relations, saw some strain in recent months as Colombo canceled two deals—first an energy project in its north-eastern part, then a fertilizer deal—with Chinese companies. The energy deal was reportedly canceled after India objected to it, citing security concerns. [Read More]

In a veiled reference to India, the Chinese Embassy in Sri Lanka had said in a tweet that the Sri Lankan authorities had not approved the project implementation due to the interference by a “third country.” [Read More]

After the pandemic in 2020, China assisted Sri Lanka by offering loans, and a currency swap deal worth $1.5 billion apart of Covid-19 vaccines. However, in recent months, Colombo has been putting efforts to repair its ties with India, which suffered amid growing Chinese influence in Sri Lanka.

Maldives’ slow overtures

Wang will visit the Maldives on 7 January at the invitation of Maldivian Foreign Minister Abdullah Shahid, who visited  China in November 2021, the archipelago’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed in a statement.

“During his visit to the Maldives, the State Councilor will pay a courtesy call on His Excellency Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, President of the Republic of Maldives, and will lead the Chinese Delegation during the Official Talks between the two sides,” reads the statement.

The Maldives-China ties, which flourished under the previous administration of former president Abdullah Yameen, saw some reversal as incumbent President Ibrahim Mohammed Solih officially opted for the “India First” policy after coming to power in 2019.

Importantly, China hadn’t even included the Maldives in July this year in its poverty alleviation program designed for the other South Asian countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Afghanistan. [Read more]

Later, Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohammed Solih had a phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping in July, in a move many saw as a fence-mending effort by the former. [Read More]

Earlier this month, the Maldivian government signed deals for energy projects with China’s Sino Soar Hybrid Technology, the same firm whose contracts for energy projects in northern Sri Lanka were put on by the Rajapaksa government. [Read More] 

 (SAM) 

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