With China poised to extend a generous $ 500 million in loan to Maldives, President Mohamed Waheed has praised Beijing’s approach to smaller countries and its policy of non-interference in their internal affairs “unlike other influential countries“.

On his maiden visit to China since he assumed power in February, Waheed is one of the guests at the China-Eurasia Expo in the Xinjiang capital of Urumqi which was inaugurated by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao today.

Waheed told state-run Chinese Xinhua news agency that “China, unlike other influential countries, looks at international affairs of small countries like Maldives from a unique perspective“.

Waheed, who became President after the ouster of Mohamed Nasheed, did not name the “other influential countries” in his interview to the Chinese news agency.

“China is emerging as one of the superpowers now. In that sense, it will inevitably play a significant role in world affairs,” Waheed said.

Before arriving in China, Waheed said Beijing will grant $ 500 million loan during his visit. The loan is equivalent to nearly one quarter of the Maldives’s GDP.

It includes $ 150 million for housing and infrastructure, with another $ 350 million from the Export-Import Bank of China.

Seen as growing influence of China in Maldives, Beijing has opened its Embassy in Male for the first time last November much to India’s disquiet.

Waheed, however, sought to allay such concerns by visiting India first in May this year.

In his interview to Xinhua, Waheed expressed happiness over the fact that China was the biggest tourist market for Maldives. “We have a big number of Chinese tourists who are coming to Maldives,” he said.

By the end of June 2012, a total of 91,148 Chinese tourists have already visited Maldives, which is a 13.1 per cent growth.

A total of 17,809 arrivals from China were recorded for the month of June alone, representing 30 per cent of the total market share and a 15.6 per cent growth compared to June 2011.

“We need to promote knowledge about Maldives in China. It is important that we bring more information about our country to potential Chinese travellers to Maldives,” he said.

According to Waheed, Maldives has benefited from Chinese companies that provided construction services in the island.

Waheed said Maldives which is struggling with the climate changes, is forced to think about new areas to develop while fighting to protect beaches and looks at China as a partner in this endeavour.

(This article was published on September 2, 2012)
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