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Maldives vows China-backed building boom, Indians out

China and Maldives upgrade ties with infrastructure deals

The Maldives will press on with Chinese-backed construction and evict Indian troops from the strategically placed atoll nation, President Mohamed Muizzu’s office said Tuesday, two days after his party’s stunning parliamentary victory.

He thanked voters for the landslide victory by his People’s National Congress, which promised a boom in building apartments, bridges and new airports with Chinese funding.

Muizzu, 45, won September presidential polls after vowing to evict 89 Indian troops deployed in the country.

The Indian contingent — operating three aircraft patrolling the archipelago’s vast maritime boundary — is due to leave by May 10.

Muizzu consolidated his hold on power by winning more than two-thirds of the seats in Sunday’s vote for the 93-member assembly.

“We will bid farewell to the enduring anguish of housing insecurity, a pressing and longstanding concern burdening the Maldivian populace,” his office said, quoting his promise at a victory rally in Male on Monday.

He did not mention China or India by name, but said he will work towards ensuring that the Maldives’ sovereignty is not compromised.

“It is important that Maldivians have sole authority over matters concerning our nation, to be addressed according to our desires,” he said.

Muizzu previously declared that the deployment of Indian troops was an affront to the Maldivians, who he said were capable of patrolling their own waters without personnel from the regional powerhouse.

Muizzu’s election pledges are expected to pull the nation of 1,192 tiny coral islands, scattered around 800 kilometres (500 miles) across the equator astride key international shipping lanes, significantly further into Beijing’s sphere of influence.

He entered a raft of agreements with China in January to build about 30,000 apartments on an island to be reclaimed near the congested Maldivian capital Male.

The election, held under the shadow of rivalry between China and India, the Maldives’ traditional benefactor, was a test of Muizzu’s foreign policy shift.

Beijing has welcomed Muizzu’s spectacular electoral success.

“China is willing to work with the Maldives to maintain traditional friendship (and) expand exchanges and cooperation in various fields,” foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said Monday.

But Western nations, led by the United States, have warned that China’s loan-funded infrastructure projects amount to a debt trap for developing nations.

The Maldives is also vulnerable to climate change, with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warning in 2007 that rising sea levels could make it virtually uninhabitable by the end of the century.

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Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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