Beijing, Feb 5 (IANS) China on Monday told its citizens not to visit the Maldives until normalcy returns in the Indian Ocean archipelago nation hit by fresh political turmoil and asked Male to ensure the safety of its enterprises there.
“The spring festival is the peak season for Chinese citizens to go to the Maldives for tourism. In light of the relevant situation, we advise the Chinese tourists in the Maldives to follow closely the situation and be aware,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang.
“At the same time, we advise the people who go to the Maldives not to travel to the Maldives before the situation gets normal.”
Beijing also said it was closely following the developments in the Maldives where the Supreme Court ordered the immediate release of jailed political leaders including self-exiled former President Mohamed Nasheed.
However, the establishment led by President Abdulla Yameen has said that it will resist the order by the top court.
Asked about China’s take on the issue, Geng said: “Now what happened in the Maldives is Maldives’ internal affair.”
“China is closely following the situation in the Maldives and we support the relevant parties in the Maldives to properly settle their disagreements through dialogue and consultation and maintain the national stability and social order.”
China had signed a free trade accord with the Maldives last year that was rushed through Maldives Parliament without any debate and had caused concern in India.
In wake of this, Geng said: “We require the Maldives to take necessary measures to earnestly protect the security of the Chinese enterprises and their personnel.”
Located on the busy lanes of the Indian Ocean, the island is of immense geostrategic significance to India and as well as China.
During his visit to Beijing last year when the free trade agreement was signed, Yameen had also backed China’s Belt and Road project which envisages the linking of Asia, Africa, and Europe through a network of highways, railways, ports and sea lanes.
Beijing’s ties with Male have grown since the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping in September 2014. China has considerable presence in Maldives’ tourism sector and is funding and building mega infrastructure projects, including the Friendship Bridge linking Male to Hulhule Island as well as a 1,000-apartment housing project on Hulhumale. Chinese tourists flock to the archipelago nation in huge numbers.