The new Maldives government was still trying to get details of the Silk Road agreement signed with China, the archipelago’s president Ibrahim Mohamed Solih said Wednesday.
The agreement was signed after the official talks between the then Maldives president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping during the former’s first state visit to the global super power in 2017.
In addition to the Silk Road agreement, a free trade agreement was also signed during Yameen’s visit.
The Maldives’ fast-tracking of the FTA with China was understandably widely reported in the Indian media saying that Sino-Maldivian trade balance remains considerably in favour of China, and there are concerns that the FTA will further increase the deficit and push Maldives towards a debt trap like Sri Lanka.
Speaking during a press conference to brief the media on his state visit to neighbours India, president Solih said he was still unaware of all the details of the agreement.
“We honestly don’t know the details of the agreement. We’re still trying to get hold of that agreement. I don’t want to believe that president Yameen would sign anything that would undermine the independence and sovereignty of the country,” Solih said.
President Solih said his government aims to discuss with the Chinese government to offer some leeway into existing agreements.
Beijing has provided grant and loans to fund several major infrastructure projects including a landmark bridge connecting the capital Male to the airport island Hulhule.
Despite initial estimates, the new government had later said that the debt owed to China amounted to USD1.4 billion which was confirmed by president Solih during Wednesday’s press conference.
“We will talk with China into reducing interest rates and maybe extending repayment periods on those loans,” he explained.
Despite the upswing in ties with India, president Solih moved to assure Beijing that its cordial and friendly relations with Maldives would remain.