Maldives' newly elected President Mohammed Waheed Hassan gestures during a press conference in Male. AP photo
Stressing that India enjoys a "special relationship" with Maldives, new President Mohammed Waheed Hassan has said that New Delhi does not have to worry over any growing Chinese influence in his country.
"You don't have to worry. We have a special relationship with India," Hassan said on the sidelines of an interaction with a small group of foreign journalists in Male on Thursday evening.
Asked specifically, if he would consider a proposal for defence cooperation with China, he said, "It has not come before me".
His comments came amidst fears expressed by ousted president Mohammed Nasheed that China might increase its influencer here under the new regime.
Nasheed had earlier said India was loosing its "leverage" in Maldives and China will increase its influence here.
He had hinted that the new regime might ink a defence cooperation agreement with Beijing that he had refused to sign.
Talking about the growing influence of China earlier during the interaction, Hassan said, "Ultimately we have not signed any agreement since I became President...So I categorically deny that".
He said, "We will respect all the strategic and commercial agreements we have signed with India. This is not to be questioned".
Asked how he plans to promote ties with China, Hassan said, "While President Nasheed was in power, we established a Chinese mission in the Maldives.
"So we have a mission in the Maldives now, we have good relations with China, and like everyone else in the world we are trying to promote our trade with China.
"China is emerging as one of the most powerful countries in the world and we will continue to work with China, for more trade and cultural relations".
Hassan also defended himself from allegations that his regime has imprints of the erstwhile Gayoom era.
"Anything other than President Mohamed Nasheed's government is now being painted as the old government, as a return to the old regime, which is a really misleading way of looking at it.
"In this country most of us grew up and got education during the last 33 years, and most of the well educated people in this country worked in government. The government was the biggest employer in the country and continues to be so," he said.
Hassan added, "Therefore don't be surprised that some people served in President Gayoom's government. That doesn't mean that anyone seen in the last 33 years has allegiance to a particular person. This is a very narrow way of looking at it".
On the issue of fears of rise of religious hardliners, Hassan said Maldives was a Muslim country and there will be some traditional Islamic values.
"In that case we will have a representative from the Adhaalath Party in the government – we had one even under President Nasheed. That doesn't mean I am encouraging people in a certain direction," he said.