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Dec 11, 2012 at 07:44pm IST

Maldives firms up defence ties with China amid GMR row

Beijing: Amidst a row over termination of Indian infrastructure major GMR's Male airport contract, China and Maldives on Tuesday firmed up their defence ties with Beijing promising to maintain mutually beneficial relations with the Indian Ocean archipelago nation.

Chinese Defence Minister Gen Liang Guanglie held talks with Maldivian counterpart Col (Retd) Mohamed Nazim in Beijing during which both sides pledged to strengthen military ties, China's state-run Xinhua news agency said. The Ministers exchanged views on regional security as well as relations between the two countries and their militaries, it said.

The visit of Nazim comes days after Maldives eased out GMR from the Male airport project much to the disquiet of India. Nazim, who arrived on Monday, was at the forefront of talks with GMR for the smooth taking over of the airport by Maldives government after it "unilaterally" terminated the $511 million contract, signed by the previous regime of Mohamed Nasheed, on November 27. Media reports had then said that China could be the force behind the move against GMR.

China, Maldives firm up defence ties amid GMR row

China and Maldives on Tuesday firmed up their defence ties with Beijing promising to maintain mutually beneficial relations.

"Looking at the political situation and political framework in Maldives, I can't rule out anything," GMR Airports chief financial officer (CFO) Sidharth Kapur had told journalists last week in a press conference in New Delhi when asked about China angle.

China has been developing relations with Maldives with aid and commercial deals after consolidating its ties with Sri Lanka, gaining strong footing in India's backyard. In his meeting with Nazim, Liang said China and Maldives enjoyed a long history of friendship and sound development of bilateral relations.

He said China would continue to develop friendly, cooperative and mutually beneficial relations with the Maldives under the principle of building a good-neighbourly relationship and non-interference in internal affairs.

"China has always positively developed its military relations with the Maldives and hopes to enhance communication and cooperation, promote the construction of both militaries and safeguard regional peace and stability", he said.

Nazim hailed the two countries' good relations and thanked China for its assistance to the Maldives. He said the Maldives would always adhere to the one-China policy and was willing to cement relations between the two countries and their militaries.

In November 2011, China became the first non-SAARC nation to open an embassy in the Maldives. Meanwhile, Male-based Minivan News in a report said it has "learnt that senior Chinese military officials landed at the airport in the tense week leading up to the handover."